Yahoo: More than 12,000 US data requests led to disclosures more than 11,000 times

And that's just so far this year, according to Yahoo's first transparency report, released Friday

Yahoo received 12,444 requests from the U.S. government for user data in the first half of this year, resulting in 11,402 instances of data disclosure, it said Friday in its first transparency report.

For nearly 7,000 of the U.S. requests between Jan. 1 and June 30, only non-content data was disclosed, such as basic subscriber information including email and IP addresses, billing information, names and locations, Yahoo said. But more than 4,500 U.S. government data requests resulted in the disclosure of actual content like communications from users' Mail and Messenger accounts, Yahoo Address Book entries, files uploaded and photos on Flickr, according to the report.

Governments of 17 countries made nearly 30,000 data requests involving almost 63,000 Yahoo accounts, the report said.

The report was released amid a series of leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden regarding the government's ability to gather data from people's digital communications, ostensibly in the interest of national security. One of the most high-profile leaks concerns a program known as Prism, which reportedly enables the NSA to collect data from Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo and other tech companies.

Since the first leaks in June by Snowden to media outlets including the Guardian and The New York Times, tech companies such as Google and Microsoft have asked for permission to provide greater clarity about the number of national security requests they receive specifically.

Currently, companies can reveal the number of requests made under the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act only if they lump them together with all other requests from U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Yahoo, therefore, did not break out its national security requests. "We include national security requests within the scope of our aggregate statistics," Yahoo general counsel Ron Bell said in a blog post.

Also, the report only reflects Yahoo's data -- not data from Tumblr users, the company said. Yahoo announced its acquisition of the social blogging site in May. Tumblr will issue its own transparency report at a later date, Yahoo said.

The total number of accounts specified in Yahoo's government data requests comprised less than one-hundredth of 1 percent of Yahoo's worldwide user base, according to the company.

Yahoo claims to have 700 million active users total across 60 countries. The company does not reveal its number of active U.S. users.

Yahoo said it regularly pushes back against improper requests for user data, including fighting requests that are unclear or unlawful, Bell said.

Yahoo plans to update its transparency report every six months.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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Zach Miners

IDG News Service
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