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Yahoo! Resisted PRISM, And Can Now Prove It

By - Source: The Daily Dot | B 20 comments

The Department of Justice must unseal court documents related to a 2008 case.

Yahoo was one of the major tech companies listed as participants of the NSA's PRISM when news of the spying program first leaked. Since then, Yahoo has been one of many companies struggling to distance themselves from the controversial government initiatives, claiming that user privacy comes first. And while Yahoo has denied participating in PRISM, the company can now actually show proof that it fought against providing the government with user data thanks to a recent ruling by the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, aka the FISC or "the secret court".

The Daily Dot reports that on Monday Yahoo won a court order (pdf) to make public its strenuous objection against providing the government with user data. This took place in a classified 2008 case conducted in a court under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Until now, Yahoo was not allowed to reveal that it was involved in the case. The company protested against the government's order, saying it violated its users' Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

But the court called Yahoo's concerns "overblown" and that "incidentally collected communications of non-targeted United States persons do not violate the Fourth Amendment." However Yahoo didn't stop there: it appealed the decision to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, a three-judge appellate court established to review decisions of the FISC. Yahoo lost again and remained silent and compliant until Yahoo's involvement was revealed by the New York Times in July.

Following the leaked news, Yahoo filed a new motion of disclosure. Now as the government and tech companies are knee deep in PRISM controversy, the government agrees that additional information about the case can be released, including Yahoo's involvement. Thus, the Department of Justice now must unseal classified documents related to the case and Yahoo's objections. The decision was made by the same court that dismissed Yahoo's concerns over user privacy.

"The Government shall conduct a declassification review of this Court's Memorandum Opinion of [Yahoo's case] and the legal briefs submitted by the parties to this Court," the ruling read. "After such review, the Court anticipates publishing that Memorandum Opinion in a form that redacts any properly classified information."

Naturally Yahoo is pleased with the new court order. "We’re very pleased with the decision by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) ordering the government to conduct a declassification review of the Court’s Memorandum of Opinion of April 25, 2008, as well as the legal briefs submitted," the company stated. "Once those documents are made public, we believe they will contribute constructively to the ongoing public discussion around online privacy."

Yahoo's win in the FISC was seen by a major victory by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and has thus given the search engine company a gold star.

"Yahoo went to bat for its users – not because it had to, and not because of a possible PR benefit – but because it was the right move for its users and the company," the EFF stated. "It’s precisely this type of fight – a secret fight for user privacy – that should serve as the gold standard for companies, and such a fight must be commended."

The EFF points out that it's possible more companies have challenged this secret surveillance, but the public currently isn't aware of it. Given that Yahoo was under a gag order since 2008, it's likely Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and other tech companies connected to PRISM are under a gag order as well.

This thread is closed for comments
  • -3 Hide
    MajinCry , July 16, 2013 5:20 PM
    Microsoft have been making things easier for PRISM to get their guff. So that part of the article, claiming that Microsoft likely fought against PRISM, is nonsense.
  • 7 Hide
    koga73 , July 16, 2013 5:43 PM
    It's good to know Yahoo fought for users privacy rights... It's too bad the government trampled over them. I switched from Yahoo to Google years many years ago... I may have to switch back to Yahoo as my primary search engine.
  • 3 Hide
    nevilence , July 16, 2013 5:48 PM
    looks like it wouldnt matter if ms fought it, yahoo in the end had to bend over and take it anyways. Not that that makes it ok, just it doesnt surprise me ms took it easy, I am surprised however that yahoo kicked and screamed before submitting. good on em
  • Display all 21 comments.
  • 3 Hide
    alextheblue , July 16, 2013 6:02 PM
    MS/Google/Yahoo can't fight the NSA in the courts unless the laws change. But MS does review requests for data, and can deny requests if they're not done properly. That's about the only way they can fight back right now. The laws need to change, and the ones at the top that support them should get tossed out of office.
  • 0 Hide
    MajinCry , July 16, 2013 6:39 PM

    You must be joking.

    Let me give you an example.
  • 0 Hide
    CKKwan , July 16, 2013 7:13 PM
    Looks like I have to move back to Yahoo.....
  • 2 Hide
    CaedenV , July 16, 2013 8:10 PM
    So let me get this right... Yahoo! fought against a court order and won, and yet this is the same company with such low security standards that they are well known for having the most compromised accounts of any service.

    ... so even if they resisted how would we ever know that the government didn't get the information anyways?
  • 0 Hide
    ojas , July 16, 2013 9:28 PM
    @koga me too, i shut my yahoo account. Looks like i'll switch back as's just too much of an effort lol.
  • 0 Hide
    DjEaZy , July 16, 2013 10:03 PM
    Yahoo! Resisted PRISM, And Can Now Prove It? Or Just A Smoke Screen?
  • -1 Hide
    abbadon_34 , July 16, 2013 10:15 PM
    That's great news, but who still uses yahoo? and for what? 10-15 years ago sure, but now?
  • 1 Hide
    Arif Iman , July 17, 2013 2:36 AM
    Has anyone use
    I think it it one of the alternative search engine worth looking for...
  • -1 Hide
    ddpruitt , July 17, 2013 7:02 AM

    You realize that many have pointed out that the Guardian's stance on this has some serious factual errors right? And when told about these errors they've been very slow to correct them. For example neither MS or Google allowed the NSA "direct access" to their servers, they use sftp. Additionally Yahoo has nothing to loose at this point, the company is still in a tailspin, MS, Google, and Facebook have lots to loose if they attempt to square off with the NSA.
  • 0 Hide
    digiex , July 17, 2013 7:53 AM
    "Resistance is futile!"

    It is clear now that "prism" is not directed to US of A citizens but directed against the rest of the world.

    US of A citizens are already subjected to spying before "prism" is created.
  • 0 Hide
    hythos , July 17, 2013 8:02 AM
    Congratulations, Yahoo.
    Unfortunately, they're not an ISP (as far as I know), and the data transferred to/from Yahoo via ISP's was still sniffed + recorded.
  • 1 Hide
    MajinCry , July 17, 2013 8:53 AM

    It was an example.

    Feel free to, y'know, use google to find others.
  • 0 Hide
    Chris Droste , July 17, 2013 8:55 AM
    ...says the company that took forever to update to httpS:// for their mail security. can there be any way to make this fight against them seem MORE empty?
  • 1 Hide
    teddymines , July 17, 2013 9:52 AM
    So how does "unsealing" documents actually work? Does someone open a special safe containing manilla envelopes glued closed, find the one that says "Yahoo Evidence" and with great pomp and circumstance run a letter opener along the flap. "Voila! These are now Unsealed!"
  • 0 Hide
    hiryu , July 17, 2013 6:34 PM
    Yahoo resisted to release users' information to US government but handed in users' information to Chinese Government even the server was not in mainland China and led to a human right activist arrested.
    Yeah... We have a choice now, want information in US government's hand or in Chinese government's hand?
  • 1 Hide
    _Cosmin_ , July 18, 2013 4:10 AM
    Who belive them anyway? It`s just a marketing move...
    Forums are full of their users trying to get help with various problems (like forgotten stupid security questions) and they provide no support whastsoever... why would they care now for that users privacy?
  • 1 Hide
    daddywalter , July 22, 2013 3:36 PM
    Defenders of PRISM and similar activities frequently say, "If you don't have anything to hide you don't have anything to fear." Let's point that argument the other way: what does the government have to hide about its spying on me? What reason does it have for gathering data from my phone calls and Internet activity, and that of millions of other American citizens who, presumably, aren't accused or even suspected of any unlawful activity? If you don't need it, Big Brother, stop doing it and save us a few billion taxpayer dollars; focus on the known (or at least suspected) bad guys, and expand your focus only as you find a reason to. Oh, and _do it yourself_ instead of coercing private enterprise to secretly cooperate with you.
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