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US Lawmakers Seek Answers on Yahoo Email Scanning

U.S. lawmakers want the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to provide clarifications on the reports about Yahoo being asked to scan its customers’ emails.

Earlier this month, Reuters ran a story claiming that Yahoo scanned hundreds of millions of email accounts at the request of the NSA or the FBI. The news agency later said the email scanning program was initiated in response to an order obtained by the Department of Justice from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The New York Times also reported that the Justice Department obtained an order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The newspaper said Yahoo adapted its spam filter to find messages possibly linked to a state-sponsored terrorist organization. The tech giant allegedly made the information available to the FBI.

Yahoo described the reports as “misleading” and claimed this email scanning system “does not exist.” Both Reuters and NYT reported that the system is no longer in place.

U.S. lawmakers want to find out if the email scanning program ever existed and who exactly ordered it so they sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

“As legislators, it is our responsibility to have accurate information about the intelligence activities conducted by the federal government. Accordingly, we request information and a briefing as soon as possible for all members of Congress to resolve the issues raised by these reports,” reads a letter signed last week by 48 members of Congress.

Yahoo’s problems keep piling up. The company recently admitted that hackers managed to access data from at least 500 million accounts in 2014, which resulted in several lawsuits and many users closing their accounts. News of the email scanning sparked even more outrage, with many security and privacy experts advising users to abandon Yahoo.

Some have accused the company of trying to prevent users from migrating to other services by disabling the forwarding feature in Yahoo Mail. The feature was quickly re-enabled and the company blamed the interruption on a platform upgrade.

Verizon agreed in July to acquire Yahoo’s core assets for $4.8 billion, but following news of the massive breach, the U.S. telecom giant could seek to reduce the purchase price or even walk away from the deal.

Related: Yahoo Pressed to Explain Huge 'State Sponsored' Hack

Related: Another Potential Victim of the Yahoo! Breach - Federated Login

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.