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Are yahoo, google, and msn reading our emails?

  1. Dec 11, 2007 #1
    It has been a while since that story came out...

    "The role of the US Internet firm Yahoo in helping Chinese security officials to finger a journalist sentenced to 10 years for e-mailing "state secrets" is filtering into mainland China"

    one link to an article can be found here (but there are more): http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0909/p01s03-woap.html

    The reason why I bring this topic up is because it suddenly occured to me what was really significant about this case (as I will explain).

    To quote the article:

    "We think Yahoo's role is very sad in this case, and we hope Yahoo reexamines its policies," says Abi Wright of the Committee to Protect Journalists, which has been following Shi's case for months. "But frankly, it isn't Yahoo but the Chinese authorities who are jailing this man, and we feel the focus of attention needs to remain on the authorities."

    When this article came out, I probably read that and didn't give it a second thought. But now it occurs to me, the quote above is COMPLETELY BACKWARDS!!

    The attention needs to be paid to yahoo, NOT China! We all know China is the way they are. The real question at hand is this: is yahoo reading our emails? Oviously they have access to our emails, and can data mine the emails at will if they wanted to.

    Call me old fashioned, but I would expect any gentleman (or woman) to be kind enough not to look at my emails which are assumed to be confidential. But ask yourself: after considering this case, would you be willing to email intellectual property through yahoo? Of course we would not expect Microsoft or google employees to send business sensitive emails through yahoo. But what about the average Joe?

    If I'm reading this case correctly, yahoo's role is not just "sad", it's disturbing! With the "New Yahoo: Better Than Ever, Etc." interfaces they are making to get me more hooked on their product (of course I opted for classic because the new yahoo sucks bigtime), I have certainly decided to take a huge step back.

    In conclusion, I think if I ever have anything important to say (low and behold, an average Joe just might have something important to say), I'm either going to use the postal service, or otherwise go to walmart and buy some looseleaf paper. It's the "role of the entire computer industry" that's sad, not just yahoo.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2007 #2


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    It's all in the privacy policy and terms of service, but who reads those nowadays?



    These are the terms a person agrees to when they sign up.
  4. Dec 11, 2007 #3
    Thanks for pointing that out. It's a good point. I admit, I hadn't read the TOS.

    Actually, when I think about it, if I had to bet on it I would guess the person(s) who received the emails are the one's who ratted the guy out, not yahoo. (And then China got yahoo to forward the IP or whatnot..) With the high volume of email, you would have to presume yahoo data mined the email out, and it seems highly unlikely they would be doing that sort of thing.

    Your reply has restored some respect for yahoo in my opinion. Nonetheless, it's still a moral of the story that, given the questionable difference between American vs Chinese values, etc., that if you have anything sensitive to communicate, you should use the postal service.
  5. Dec 11, 2007 #4


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    The moral of this thread is for you or anyone else to not jump to conclusion based on a simple action.

    Yahoo made an action to reveal information. Just a simple action. Then you jumped on the "internet bad" bandwagon and started talking about buying paper to send real mail.
  6. Dec 11, 2007 #5


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    Most companies and institutions within the US that deal with sensitive documents (intellectual property, confidential, etc.) have their own domain and email servers, and would not use something as unsecure as Yahoo.

    I do, however, wonder about how well something like a patient's protected personal information is really protected when they choose to correspond with a physician via one of those email providers. On the physician's side, this isn't a problem...correspondence between physicians here is even done on a separate server and encrypted...but what happens when they email out to one of their patients who has asked them a question about their treatment or appointment or diagnosis?

    Does Yahoo have to comply with HIPAA regulations?
  7. Dec 11, 2007 #6


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    Google has been accused of doing the same and filtering content to the Chinese public. This surprises you?

    Use the postal service? That's always been the most unsafe. A friend of mine worked in Saudi Arabia for several years and his mail had always been opened and censored. A friend sent him a CD and the picture of the face of a female singer on the cover had been mostly blacked out.
  8. Dec 11, 2007 #7


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    Sure, I presume that's why the journalist in the OP used a free email address though; in a hope that it would not be traceable. However it turns out that was not the case!
  9. Dec 11, 2007 #8


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    Murphy's law. If there's potential for evil and that potential is against you, it WILL be released.

    I seriously doubt someone has time to look over & read every single damn e-mail flying around. But then there's the whole UKUSA network, and in any case, you should expect that someone generally will be reading what you write, instead of having faith.
  10. Dec 11, 2007 #9


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    We had a company rule that we werent allowed to send email to a client at a yahoo/gmail etc address.
    It was too easy to mistype "lee3t10l@yahoo.comm" and send the email to another unknown person.
  11. Dec 11, 2007 #10
    OK I guess I was busted for being ignorant on this topic, but I'm still glad I brought it up..

    Given that your emails are analyzed for advertising purposes is already a significant difference between writing something down on paper.

    I'm curious, is anyone doing math physics research that would communicate via yahoo/google/msn? I personally think it's a bad idea, just based on common sense. I presume if you email through your university email server you should be safe, but otherwise pen and paper is better.

    I guess I am one of the unusual one's who thinks anonymity is much more user friendly than the new features coming out to get your personal life stored on someone's hard drive out there.
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