Yahoo has made three National Security Letters public

National Security Letters are a big deal, and that's because companies face severe restrictions related to them. No company has been able to make the nature of the letters, nor the number or even a narrow range of the number of letters received, public. As consumer fears about privacy invasions led to a fast scramble on tech companies' parts to be more transparent, certain law changes have come about, and one of them has led to Yahoo disclosing publishing National Security Letters.

Yahoo's Head of Global Law Enforcement, Security and Safety Chris Madsen made the announcement today, saying Yahoo is now the first company given permission to "publicly acknowledge receiving an NSL." The reason it can do this are reforms via the USA Freedom Act, which requires the FBI to occasionally reassess whether an NSL's gag order has continued to be appropriate and if not, whether to remove the gag order.

Says the company, the three NSL it is revealing were received back in April 2013, August 2013, and later in June 2015. As expected, Yahoo followed the orders from all three national security requests, as there's little wiggle room when it comes to such orders. In these cases, Yahoo gave over the name, address, and "length of service" for the requested accounts in two of the letters; a third letter cited an account that didn't actually exist, and so Yahoo had nothing to hand over in that case.

The FBI had decided there was no need for gag orders to remain on these three letters, but many are still kept under lock and key, and we're likely to never get a disclosure about many of them. Yahoo will start including the number of NSLs it gets, however, as part of its Transparency report. The company can only provide ranges, not specifics. Shown below are its latest numbers.

You can read the letters here.