>> The program Yahoo used to scan hundreds of millions of users' emails for specific information requested by the US government, a 2015 operation Reuters exclusively reported on Tuesday, was authorized by a secret court. Using a foreign spy law, according to two government sources. Reuters cyber security reporter Josheph Menn broke the story.
>> We learned today that Yahoo conducted the search of all of its incoming emails under an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. It was under a provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. And they were looking for what's called a digital signature, a specific snippet of characters.
A number of people very well versed in this specific area of the law said they had not heard before of such an order being used to compel a search of all incoming emails at a web company. Similar things had been done at big phone companies but not at web companies, and now we know that it was a direct order from a court, which would have been trickier for Yahoo to challenge.
They still could have challenged it to a still secret appeals court. But they did not.>> In a statement released Wednesday a Yahoo spokesperson said the Reuters report was, quote, misleading, and that the mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems. When asked to identify any specific way in which the story was misleading, Yahoo declined to comment.
Reuters said it was confident of the accuracy and fairness of the story. Some privacy advocates expressed alarm over the report, saying a scanning program amounted to an unprecedented use of the authorities granted to the NSA by Congress. The news has also prompted questions in Europe as to whether EU citizens' data had been compromised.
And Ireland's data protection commissioner, the lead European regulator on privacy issues for Yahoo, said on Wednesday it was making inquiries about the matter.