Apple, Google and Microsoft — three of the largest technology companies in the U.S. — have each said they don’t scan all incoming messages for the U.S. government, which is exactly what Yahoo does. According to Reuters, Yahoo secretly built a custom software program last year to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials. The company complied with a classified U.S. government directive, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI. Vocativ reports: In a statement, a Microsoft spokesperson told Vocativ that “We have never engaged in the secret scanning of email traffic like what has been reported today about Yahoo.” While Apple declined to give a statement on the record, a representative for the company did, in response to Vocativ’s question, refer to CEO Tim Cook’s official letter on consumer privacy, which reads in part: “I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.” The fact that both the companies declined further statement means it’s not yet known if the NSA or FBI approached them to request they build a program like Yahoo’s. Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Alphabet’s Google issued a statement to CNBC: “We’ve never received such a request, but if we did, our response would be simple: ‘no way.'” [The spokesperson later clarified that the company has not received a “directive” or “order” to that effect, either, according to The Intercept.] But the question is whether or not you believe them. With Yahoo’s case, only a handful of employees knew about the program. The same could be true with Apple, Google, Microsoft or any other large tech company. Edward Snowden tweeted not too long after Reuters’ report surfaced: “Heads up: Any major email service not clearly, categorically denying this tomorrow — without careful phrasing — is as guilty as Yahoo.”
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