Government panics as Yahoo announces move out of Britain over surveillance concerns

UPDATED 14.30 24 March 2014

Home Secretary Theresa May summoned Yahoo to an urgent meeting yesterday after it announced it was moving out of Britain.

The internet giant said it would be moving to Dublin where it cannot be forced to hand over information to the security and intelligence services under anti-terrorism laws.

This follows months of anxiety at Yahoo over the privacy of its users and their data.

In February we reported spies were harvesting and viewing images from thousands of Yahoo webcams.

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The company told the Guardian at the time: “[This] represents a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy that is completely unacceptable, and we strongly call on the world’s governments to reform surveillance law consistent with the principles we outlined in December.

“We are committed to preserving our users’ trust and security and continue our efforts to expand encryption across all of our services.”

Urgent government meeting

The home secretary called a meeting with Yahoo bosses to discuss the concerns of Britain’s counter-terrorism investigators.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa), which forces companies to hand over information stored on their servers, has been widely criticised for giving police too much access to people’s emails and web searches.

“There are concerns in the Home Office about how Ripa will apply to Yahoo once it has moved its headquarters to Dublin,” a Whitehall source told the Guardian. “The home secretary asked to see officials from Yahoo because in Dublin they don’t have equivalent laws to Ripa. This could particularly affect investigations led by Scotland Yard and the national crime agency. They regard this as a very serious issue.”

Yahoo said it was moving customers’ data out of Britain as part of a drive to “streamline” its services and expand internationally, particularly in Ireland.

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