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Yahoo plays catchup in the encryption arms race

In the face of privacy concerns, the Sunnyvale Calif.-based company said it would beef up security of information traveling between data centers.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read
Yahoo on Monday announced that it will be beefing up encryption efforts across all of the company's products -- just the latest case of giant tech companies trying assuage user concerns in the face of numerous press reports of government surveillance.

Specifically, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer wrote in a blog post that the company will encrypt all information flowing between data centers by the end of the first quarter in 2014. It will also give users the option to encrypt the flow of all information shared with Yahoo by the same time frame. In addition, Mayer said that the company will work with mail partners overseas to make sure their products are "https" enabled.

"I want to reiterate what we have said in the past: Yahoo has never given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency. Ever," Mayer wrote. Yahoo did not respond to a request for comment.

Yahoo had already recently pledged to increase the security of its mail product, saying it would add https encryption to the network by January 8, 2014.

The move comes after a report by The Washington Post that said data centers belonging to Yahoo and Google have been specifically infiltrated by the federal government as sources of surveillance data -- part of a program known as MUSCULAR, a joint effort between the NSA and Britain's GCHQ. Google had already been making similar moves to heighten the security of information flowing between data centers.

Regular security updates and announcements like this one from large tech companies have become the norm since NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked information of government surveillance about half a year ago. Eric Grosse, Google's vice president for security engineering, has called the effort to encrypt products an "arms race."