Yahoo as a Police Informant

Posted by at 3:58PM

I recently heard a report on NPR about the role Yahoo played in China helping the Chinese government track down and imprison a political dissident Shi Tao
Shi Tao’s political offense was contacting the Asia Democracy Project through his Yahoo email account to tell them about an order the Chinese Government gave to all journalists: not to report on any democratic protesters on the 15th anniversary of Tiananmen Square (June 4, 2004).
The Chinese government found out about this email, and demanded that Yahoo provide the user’s private information, which Yahoo did without asking why. This became a US scandal when the US Yahoo representatives told the US Senate that Chinese Yahoo had done no such thing, which it later retracted, claiming that it had made this claim on the grounds of an inaccurate translation from the Chinese Yahoo office.

I decided to contact Yahoo to express my opinion of this matter: that email providers should not act as police informants.
“Dear Yahoo Customer Service,
I was disgusted to learn that Yahoo had been involved in helping the Chinese government track down political dissident Shi Tao- When I use Yahoo, I expect that my right to privacy is respected, and I can expect no less for Yahoo users in other countries. I look forward to hearing what you have done to change your business practices, and I will be making sure that my friends who use Yahoo understand the business model Yahoo is currently using.”
After receiving an email indicating that they would need an additional 48 hrs to answer my question, I received the following “form letter” reply:
Thank you for writing to Yahoo! Mail. At this time, it is unclear what assistance you are seeking. In order for us to better assist you, I would appreciate some additional information. Please reply to this email with the full details of what you are experiencing — the more information we have, the better we will be able to investigate this issue.
I look forward to providing you with a solution as soon as possible.
Thank you again for contacting Yahoo! Mail.
Yahoo! Customer Care
You may take this reply at face value- I did not describe a technical problem, so they had no way that they could help me- However, to me it is very telling that they completely ignored the issue I was addressing and deferred it with this form letter.
Write to them yourself– see what sort of response you get!


One Response to “Yahoo as a Police Informant”

  1. David says:

    What did you expect them to do? Bend over backwards apologizing to you for all eternity due to the severity of their sins? I’m not saying that what they did was a good thing (but you might want to point fingers domestically before pointing fingers at China…) but it’s unclear what exactly you thought you were going to get in reply.


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