UN expert voices 'serious concerns' over allegations Yahoo scanned customer emails at behest of US intelligence

Government surveillance could 'undermine privacy' says freedom of expression expert David Kaye

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The Independent US

A UN expert on freedom of expression has voiced “serious concerns” over allegations that tech giant Yahoo scanned millions of customer emails at the behest of US intelligence. 

Yahoo specially built software to monitor customer communications in accordance with a criteria provided by the National Security Agency or FBI, according to a Reuters report citing insiders with close knowledge of the issue. 

The software - an adapatation of a filter intended for use against spam and child pornography - was searching for a specific set of characters which could have been in or attached to an email. 

Now, David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, has condemned the alleged actions. 

“Government monitoring of digital communications, when conducted as described in recent reports, could undermine the privacy that individuals depend on in order to seek, receive and impart information online,” said Mr Kaye. 

He added: “Based on the allegations reported, I have serious concerns that the alleged surveillance fails to meet the standards of necessity and proportionality for the protection of legitimate government interests.”

Mr Kaye previously said in a report that governments can place “undeniable pressures” on tech companies, which can lead to “serious restrictions on the freedom of expression”. 

But he added that the firms “are capable of establishing and exercising varying degrees of leverage in their relationships with states to resist or mitigate the harm caused by abusive application of the law.”

Yahoo said in a statement in response to the initial report: “Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States”.