Yahoo’s Yahoos & a major case of buyer’s remorse

In his seminal 1726 satire, Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift coined a word to describe a loathsome creature spawned by his imagination.

The word was Yahoo, and here’s Wikipedia’s definition of the nature of the beast:

Swift describes them as being filthy and with unpleasant habits, resembling human beings far too closely for the liking of protagonist Lemuel Gulliver, who finds the calm and rational society of intelligent horses, the Houyhnhnms, greatly preferable. The Yahoos are primitive creatures obsessed with “pretty stones” they find by digging in mud, thus representing the distasteful materialism and ignorant elitism Swift encountered in Britain. Hence the term “yahoo” has come to mean “a crude, brutish or obscenely coarse person.”

Why anyone would want to name a company after disgusting a critter is something of a mystery, although the name may be apt given that the company was letting both the NSA and FBI root around in its emails searching for “pretty stones,” the jewels of intelligence.

And now a would-be buyer of the company is finding that they’re about to wind up with a mess of their hands.

From the New York Post:

Verizon is pushing for a $1 billion discount off its pending $4.8 billion agreement to buy Yahoo, several sources told The Post exclusively.

The request comes on the heels of the web giant getting bludgeoned by bad news in the past few days.

Yahoo revealed two weeks ago that it had been hacked in 2014 and that usernames and passwords for 500 million accounts were swiped. Then, earlier this week, it was learned that Yahoo had been ordered by a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to scan emails for terrorist signatures.

“In the last day we’ve heard that [AOL boss] Tim [Armstong] is getting cold feet. He’s pretty upset about the lack of disclosure and he’s saying, ‘Can we get out of this or can we reduce the price?’” said a source familiar with Verizon’s thinking.

But it gets worse, as the Intercept reports:

Contrary to a denial by Yahoo and a report by the New York Times, the company’s scanning program, revealed earlier this week by Reuters, provided the government with a custom-built back door into the company’s mail service — and it was so sloppily installed that it posed a privacy hazard for hundreds of millions of users, according to a former Yahoo employee with knowledge of the company’s security practices.

Despite this week’s differing media accounts, this much isn’t disputed: In 2015, Yahoo provided the U.S. government with the means to scan every single email that landed in every single Yahoo Mail inbox. The scanning was kept an absolute secret — and as this ex-Yahoo source describes, that meant keeping it a secret from security personnel who came to believe it endangered Yahoo’s hundreds of millions of unwitting customers.

The employee, who worked at Yahoo before, during, and after the installation of the email-scanning program, requested anonymity because of a nondisclosure agreement formed when the individual quit several months after the program was discovered internally last summer. The source declined to share certain specific names for fear of violating that same NDA or the NDA of others, but The Intercept has confirmed details of the source’s employment at Yahoo, which would have put the then-employee in a position to know this information.

Yep Yahoo is precisely the right name, no?

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