Security expert Bruce Schneier writes:
Other companies have been quick to deny that they did the same thing, but I generally don't believe those carefully worded statements about what they have and haven't done. We do know that the NSA uses bribery, coercion, threat, legal compulsion, and outright theft to get what they want. We just don't know which one they use in which case.
So Yahoo secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers' incoming emails for specific information under government coercion. Marissa Mayer is not only incompetent as a CEO, but has no balls* but likes to play ball. Emphasis added:
Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers' incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter.
The company complied with a classified U.S. government demand, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said three former employees and a fourth person apprised of the events.
Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to an intelligence agency's request by searching ALL arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time.
The idea that Yahoo alone engages in such practices is not credible. Any company served with a secret court order is not about to tell you what it is doing.
For now, Yahoo takes the hit, but other cases like this will almost certainly emerge. Electronic services are enablers of a monumentally powerful police state. Not just everything you do online, but out in the world (license plate readers, cameras on every street corner, cell phone tracking in real time, etc). The infrastructure is in place to blink a totalitarian state into existence overnight, given the right “emergency” decree. Meanwhile, people foolishly go about about posting every last detail of their lives and friends on Facebook and its ilk. See for example Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram surveillance tool was used to arrest Baltimore protestors.
I personally experienced government pressure about 24 years ago, when NSA personnel showed up asking for compression source code, with no court order. We complied, but I had deep reservations at the time about it. Also, how the heck would I know a fake NSA or FBI badge from a real one?
* Double entendre intended.