Govt asked for details of 189 accounts, says Yahoo

SINGAPORE - Internet giant Yahoo said it has disclosed user details in 75 instances - including private chat logs and e-mail - to the Singapore Government.

The Government made 138 requests on 189 individual accounts in the first six months of this year, the US-based company revealed in a report published over the weekend.

In the 75 requests that the firm acceded to, it disclosed "non-content data" in 73 instances.

Such data consists of information such as a user's name, location, IP address, login details and billing information - most of which are captured when a person registers for a new account.

Other transactional information such as who e-mail is being sent to and received from are also included.

In two instances, the firm released "content" from its users to the Singapore Government.

This could include text within e-mail and its Messenger services, images on its photo sharing site, Flickr, and even Yahoo Calendar event details, the firm said.

The Yahoo data does not include accounts related to Tumblr, a micro-blogging platform which the company acquired earlier this year. Out of the 17 countries listed by Yahoo in the report, the highest number of requests came from the US government, which demanded that the firm hand over data on over 40,000 users.

The UK government sought data on 2,832 accounts, while the Taiwanese authorities sought data on 2,650 accounts. The company said most of the requests made by governments are "generally made in connection with criminal investigations".

Yahoo's transparency report is the latest among similar ones recently released by tech giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter.

Late last month, Facebook revealed that the Singapore Government made 107 requests on 117 individuals in the first six months of this year. The company acceded to 70 per cent of them.

These reports come on the heels of revelations about top secret surveillance programmes by the US government, which allegedly allows it to access data from major Internet companies.

Unlike the reports by its rivals, Yahoo has been more specific about the type of data it released to governments.

When asked about the nature of the Singapore Government's requests, a Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman said: "As part of the evidence gathering process provided for under the law, law enforcement agencies in Singapore may request information from persons or organisations that will help in their investigations into criminal cases."

In Singapore, the State has not needed court authorisation to obtain data for decades.

For example, the broadly worded provision in Singapore's Criminal Procedure Code that allows the police to obtain anything deemed related to an investigation has been on the books since it was enacted in 1955.

derrickh@sph.com.sg

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