U.S. News


Yahoo Wins Fight To Release NSA Legal Battle Documents

Over a year after Yahoo and other companies were shown to have handed over user data to the NSA, the company finally has proof it didn't go quietly.
Posted at 9:40 PM, Sep 11, 2014

New documents show tech giant Yahoo fought the government's surveillance requests until it was threatened with a massive fine.

Yahoo was one of the tech companies implicated last year in helping the NSA collect vast amounts of data — including from U.S. citizens — without a warrant. The program, dubbed PRISM, was revealed by Edward Snowden.

But right away the company set out to clear its good name among its surveillance-suspicious users.

Just days after the first news stories about PRISM, The New York Times reported Yahoo had challenged the NSA, calling the government's requests unconstitutional. "The judges disagreed. That left Yahoo two choices: Hand over the data or break the law."

The NSA then showed the Yahoo ruling to Google, Facebook, Apple, AOL and others to prove the issue had already been settled in court and they may as well just cooperate without a fight. 

Later last summer, the company petitioned the government to release the records from that 2008 court decision, arguing the files "would demonstrate that Yahoo 'objected strenuously' to government demands for customers' information." 

Those documents have finally been released, and they show that after Yahoo lost its legal challenge, the government threatened to fine the company $250,000 per day until it handed over the data. That's when Yahoo finally folded.

In a blog post, Yahoo's general council said, "We consider this an important win for transparency, and hope that these records help promote informed discussion about the relationship between privacy, due process, and intelligence gathering," adding that the documents also show, "Users come first at Yahoo."

All in all, it's hard for users to complain Yahoo didn't put up a fight. For its part, the NSA maintains any data on U.S. citizens is incidental and that there are protections in place to make sure Americans' information isn't touched after collection unless there's a warrant.

This video includes images from Getty Images and the National Security Agency.