The U.K. is reportedly begging Yahoo to not move its European headquarters to Ireland, where it may not face the same level of surveillance it currently does.
If the move, first announced in February, does happen, it could be seen as the first major corporate fallout since Edward Snowden provided major revelations on British government spy agencies in June. Though the U.S.’s National Security Agency (NSA), where Snowden was a contract systems analyst, is likely more infamous, he was also ready to finger the U.K’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) as “worse than the U.S.”
That’s why the U.K.’s strategy is so curious. British Home Secretary Theresa May summoned Yahoo to an emergency meeting Thursday, sources told the Guardian. Their concern? That the company will no longer be subject to warrants issued by a controversial British antiterrorism law, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), which makes it easy for the U.K. to tap tech companies for email contents and search histories.
It’s a curious move. Though Ireland claims it won Yahoo’s heart by being a better place to do business, the company has been repeatedly, openly frustrated with the U.K. government’s snooping abilities. Not only does GCHQ have the ability to tap undersea cables for incredible access to online communications, it even screengrabbed millions of Yahoo video chat users to test a facial recognition system. At the time, Yahoo called the program, named Optic Nerve, “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy.”
“There are concerns in the Home Office about how RIPA will apply to Yahoo once it has moved its headquarters to Dublin,” a government source told the Guardian. “The home secretary asked to see officials from Yahoo because in Dublin they don’t have equivalent laws to RIPA.”
As of press time, Yahoo has not announced any plans to change its mind and stay in the U.K.
Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III