Yahoo! Celebrates 14th Birthday, Protects your Privacy Despite Hefty Fines

Article by George Norman (Cybersecurity Editor)

on 03 Mar 2009

This month marks one very joyous occasion for the good people over at Yahoo! Inc. as they are celebrating 14 years of activity. I think a “Happy Birthday!” is in order for the company best known for their online services, including Yahoo! Messenger 9.0. But it is not all birthday cakes and celebrations at Yahoo! because as it turns out a court in Belgium has ordered Yahoo! to hand over personal account information linked to a number of email addresses. Yahoo! has of course declined to do so, consequently getting a very hefty fine.

Starting with the good news, it was only 14 years ago, back in 1995, that Jerry Yang and David Filo incorporated Yahoo! – the company was founded one year before, in 1994. Senior Director, Corporate Communications with Yahoo! Inc comments:

“Fourteen years ago today, Jerry and David officially incorporated Yahoo!. And, oh, how the world has changed. Remember when faxes were the fastest, most efficient way to communicate in writing? When the newspaper landing on your doormat was your best portal to world news? When calling catalog 800#s was the only way to beat driving to the store? That crazy sound of a modem connecting to the Interwebz? We’d like to think we had something to do with the revolution. Here’s to lots more of that. Happy 14th Birthday, all you Yahoos.

Moving on to the less joyous news, it must be said that a court in Dendermonde, Belgium is investigating a cyber-criminal matter and has ordered Yahoo! t hand over account details related to some email addresses include in the aforementioned investigation. Yahoo! refused to do so on the premises that only an US court can order them to hand over sensitive, confidential data, to which the Belgium court responded by fining Yahoo! €55,000 and an additional €10,000 per day until it complies.

Yahoo! has issued an official statement: “Yahoo! Inc., a U.S. corporation, does not have business operations in Belgium and does not maintain the customer information at issue in Belgium. The United States and Belgium have a formal international treaty which the prosecutor should have followed to properly seek information from a U.S. company. Yahoo! is not withholding information from the Belgium government. We have a legal and policy basis for not disclosing information in this type of case until the recognized international legal process is followed. We have raised this issue with the U.S. Government.”

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