Australian government's data requests less successful than most, Yahoo figures show

Yahoo has proven to be protective of Australian users' content, disclosing content in just 2.2 percent of requests made by government authorities during the first half of this year.

Australian authorities lodged 315 requests for user information, concerning 340 different accounts – but Yahoo provided user content such as Mail, Messenger, Address Book uploaded files and Flickr photos in just 7 of them, according to the company's latest transparency report.

A breakdown of Yahoo's operations in Australia showed that the online service provider knocked back 85 government requests for data (27 percent of the total), while in 41 cases (13 percent) the requested data could not be found.

In another 182 cases (58 percent) Yahoo did provide non-content data (NCD) such as users' name, address, location, IP address, login details, and other information.

The disclosure follows a growing trend by tech giants to share information about their relationships with government authorities. A 2013 Twitter transparency report showed Australia Twitter users were the world's third most-investigated, while a 2014 Google transparency report showed Australian authorities were proving quite successful in getting user information by world standards.

Telstra published its first half-year transparency report in early 2014 and its first full-year figures last September, while Amazon only recently published its first transparency report, joining the ranks in June.

“While we can’t control the number of requests, we demand that government data requests be made through lawful means and for lawful purposes,” Yahoo's latest transparency report notes.

“We carefully scrutinize each request to make sure that it complies with the law, and we push back on those requests that don’t satisfy our rigorous standards. When we are compelled to disclose data, consistent with our Global Principles for Responding to Government Requests, we disclose only as much data as is necessary to comply with the request.”

Yahoo received 15,583 requests from government authorities worldwide during the first half of this year, up from 12,444 requests received from the US government alone during the same period in 2013.

This year, by comparison, Yahoo's US arm provided content to US authorities in 1258 cases out of 5221 requests (24 percent of requests) and NCD in 3174 cases (61 percent). Law-enforcement requests were rejected in just 304 cases (6 percent of the total).

New Zealand authorities were far less interested in Yahoo user data, lodging just 8 requests for information – 3 (38 percent) of which produced non-content data, and just one of which (13 percent) saw the disclosure of NCD. Neither New Zealand nor Australian authorities lodged any requests for content to be removed from its site during the half-year.


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