September 15, 2014

Yahoo threatened with huge fines if it didn't cave in to NSA

Guardian - 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.

In a blog post, the company said the 1,500 pages of once-secret documents shine further light on Yahoo’s previously disclosed clash with the NSA over access to its users’ data. The size of the daily fine was set to double every week that Yahoo refused to comply, the documents show.

The papers outline 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.

“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.

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, also known as the Fisa court, which oversees requests for surveillance orders in national security investigations. The secretive FISA court provides the legal authorities that underpin the US government’s controversial surveillance programmes. 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”.

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.


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