Internet police in action: Yahoo scanned emails to help FBI.
The FBI has stepped up its effort to police the internet by requesting Yahoo to assist in developing software to scan emails which were going through YahooMail servers. Yahoo was reported to have agreed but the intrusion did not only affect YahooMail customers but also other email users who happened to communicate with a YahooMail address.
Following the report, Yahoo was accused of “selling out its customers base to an out of control, data-hungry Federal government”.
However, despite the obvious intrusion into private emails CybeLawExpert has long campaigned for an increase in police power over internet communications and against the discrepancy and inconsistencies between offline and online policing.
The request of Yahoo by the FBI is not dissimilar to the good old fashion profiling method, used for example in airports across the world, and which is aimed to save lives of tens of thousand of people without the need to intrusively screen each and every passenger.
Yahoo would have filtered all incoming emails but would only pass on the FBI emails that matched specific keywords.
According to the government officials, as reported by the NY Times, Yahoo was served with an individualised court order to look only for code uniquely used by foreign terrorist organizations. It appears Yahoo had adapted an existing scanning systems that it already had in place to comply with that order adding a few modifications.
Bearing in mind that technology companies like Yahoo, Google and Microsoft have been scanning emails for child pornography for many years now, the additional scanning requirement which aims to prevent acts of terrorism represents a natural progress in internet policing.
I spoke to SputnikNews radio back in October 2016 about internet policing and you can listen to the full interview here:
The big question is of course Do email uses actually care or do we feel this is a price worth paying for added safety and security online?