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Published On: Sun, Sep 14th, 2014

Yahoo tried to protect ‘your information,’ Feds threatened $250K daily fine

The US government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day if it refused to hand over user data to the National Security Agency, according to court documents unsealed on Thursday.

In a blogpost, the company said the 1,500 pages of once-secret documents highlight Yahoo’s previously disclosed battle with the NSA surveillance of its users’ data. The size of the daily fine was set to double every week that Yahoo refused to comply, the documents show.

NSA monitors Google Yahoo Edward SnowdenThese new documents detail Yahoo’s secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle to resist the government’s demands for the tech firm to cooperate with the NSA’s controversial Prism surveillance program, revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden last year. More details explained here.

“The released documents underscore how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the US government’s surveillance efforts,” said the company’s general counsel, Ron Bell, in a Tumblr post. “At one point, the U.S. Government threatened the imposition of $250,000 in fines per day if we refused to comply.”

The US government amended a key law to demand user information from online services in 2007. When Yahoo was asked to hand over user data the company objected arguing the request was “unconstitutional and overbroad”.

Yahoo took its case to the foreign intelligence surveillance court, the FISA court, Yahoo lost its case, and an appeal.

The government argued that Yahoo’s terms of service agreement diminished its users’ expectations of their right to privacy. Yahoo countered that the terms said the company would share information when “required to do so by law” and did not support the government’s assertion that it should hand over information “on request”.

photo Charles Fettinger via Flickr

photo Charles Fettinger via Flickr

The company also warned that the searches were likely to take in communications by US citizens, which the NSA was expressly not supposed to be collecting.

“Yahoo! receives [redacted] orders to gather communications, [redacted] for users whom the government may not be able to identify beyond their email addresses. The possibility that those requests target some US persons is significant,” the company said in court filings made in 2008.

“Unless the court prohibits the targeting of US persons communications now, the government can search accounts of US persons under the existing directives later without facing a future challenge by Yahoo,” the company said.

The Washington Post put together a timeline of the major company supplying private information to the NSA, with Apple being the latest. Check it out below.

To understand more of Snowden’s claims, read this post.

The American Civil Liberties Union praised Yahoo for pushing back on the government’s unreasonable surveillance.

“Yahoo should be lauded for standing up to sweeping government demands for its customers’ private data,” Patrick Toomey, staff attorney with the ACLU said in a statement.”But today’s [document] release only underscores the need for basic structural reforms to bring transparency to the NSA’s surveillance activities.”

Yahoo’s secret battle, and the PRISM program, came to light only last year after documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed the data-collection program.

NSA Prism timeline company give up information

About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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  1. ‘ US Government Threaten Yahoo with Fines of £250,000 for Refusal to Provide Data Under Prism’ | Ace News Services 2014 says:

    […] Yahoo tried to protect ‘your information,’ Feds threatened $250K daily fine […]

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