Yahoo! Denies Providing User Details to Iran

During the election protests in Iran, the country severed access to many websites and heavily filtered others. Among those affected were Google and Yahoo! and today a report on ZDNet claims that Yahoo! made a deal with Iranian internet and telecommunications authorities. The deal allegedly involved the handing over of more than 200,000 names in exchange for lifting the block on Yahoo!.

Citing a post on the Iranian Students Solidarity (Farsi) blog, ZDNet's Richard Koman says his sources indicate the information comes from a group of resisters who have infiltrated the administration and are leaking out important information.

The post goes on to say that Yahoo! sent a representative to Iran’s telecommunications ministry, to resolve the issue of limited or blocked access to the site. During the meeting, Iranian Internet authorities and telecommunications authorities supposedly asked the Yahoo! rep to hand over the details of all Iranian account holders, in exchange for removing the block/filter on Yahoo!. When the rep said compiling such a list would take practically forever, the IRGC (Islamic Republic Guardian Council) narrowed it down by asking Yahoo! to provide the details of those who have Yahoo! accounts and are publishing blogs.

The list of 200,000 email addresses provided by Yahoo! apparently goes back five years and is comprised of both active and inactive blogs/accounts.

Check out the full story here.

[UPDATE] ZDNet Editor in Chief Larry Dignan has labeled the report 'unreliable' because there is a lack of second or third sources.

Previous updates to the post include a statement from Yahoo! categorically denying that any such meeting took place (check it out below) and details from Richard Koman regarding his sources and where they got their information from. Koman says his source obtained the information from the Iranian Student Solidarity Organization, a group of 30,000 students who oppose the Iranian government and claims one of their contacts actually attended the meeting where the Yahoo official from Malaysia and IRI staff took place.

Statement from Yahoo!:

“The allegations in the story are false. Neither Yahoo! nor any Yahoo! representative has met with or communicated with any Iranian officials, and Yahoo! has not disclosed user data to the Iranian government. Yahoo! was founded on the principle that access to information and communications tools can improve people’s lives, and Yahoo! is committed to protecting and promoting freedom of expression and privacy. To learn more about our human rights efforts, please visit:”

  • Jerky_san
    Wow.. talk about violation of privacy there..
  • valcron
    Man all business integrity is out the window now days isn't it? I mean come on i know your in it to make money...but integrity is worth a LOT more than money. After this article I would pay to use a search engine than touch yahoo.
  • the_krasno
    So basically there are 200K users that Yahoo sold to a government that is known for persecuting, intimidating, imprisoning and even torturing and killing its own people for bullshit reasons.

    Yep. And then they say Google is bad.
  • Wow. How many of these users ended up being beaten and have their fingers smashed by hammers as a result of giving this info to the IRGC?

    Way to go Yahoo. Should change your name to F*&^'n OUCH!
  • jerreece
    Next step: Find evidence which shows any of those 200k people who were located by the Iranian government due to Yahoo's information, that may have then been persecuted or killed. Then, compile all that evidence and charge Yahoo and it's personnel associated with this whole ordeal with conspiracy to commit....
  • hellwig
    And people wonder why we fight so hard against the RIAA, ISPs like Comcast and AT&T, etc... If people want to know what the danger is in having an internet that is no longer free and open to all, just look at Iran, China, etc...

    Sure, we can say all this extra intrusion is to reduce piracy or prevent terrorism, but tomorrow when the feds are knocking on your door because you posted an anti-administration rant on your blog, don't cry foul or complain no one warned you.

    And if all else fails, and people are still too stupid to be concerned about their civil liberties, just remind them that Iran blocked Twitter access during the previous election riots, and China routinely blocks YouTube, see if that doesn't jar them into action.
  • ailgatrat
    Did anybody read the article and the posts thereafter by the author?

    "Oct. 9, 9:18 am PST — Ed note from Larry Dignan: I’m ending this back and forth now. This story, which derived from a blog post in Iran, has turned into a he said-Yahoo said go-round. Yahoo has denied the charges that it has turned over names to Iran and called the allegations completely false. Short of second and third sourcing, ZDNet must consider this report unreliable."

  • bliq
    This is pretty stupid- Yahoo *barely* gets any traffic from Iran. If they were to block traffic, it would barely register. What would there be to gain from opening traffic to the country compared to the international bad press it would generate? And the author has already said his *only* source was a student activist blog (almost the definition of ulterior motive) and can't be verified by a second or third source. I smell slander here... And I think the SEC could definitely have something to say about the market manipulation.
  • vaskodogama
    F*** Yahoo! I Hate them! they sell everything, even the privacy of their users to some savage goverment like iran's that kills it's people?
    I'm an Iranian, Living in Iran. I'm sure nobody feels how it is to be sold or something like yahoo thinks we are stupid!
  • davidhbrown
    If you follow the link back, the editor at ZDNet has closed comments, saying with only one source and Yahoo denying it, there's no story. That's the problem with news blogs... so many thoughts, so little fact-checking.