US threatened to fine Yahoo! over PRISM

12 Sep 2014

Court documents reveal the US government threatened to fine internet giant Yahoo! US$250,000 per day if it did not hand over user data as part of the National Security Agency (NSA)’s PRISM programme.

Court documents unsealed yesterday show Yahoo! was unsuccessful in its attempts to resist the legal challenge, according to The Washington Post.

A version of the court ruling had been released in 2009, but was heavily redacted, so much so that the company involved was not revealed at the time.

Dating back to 2008, the PRISM programme, which collected user data from the largest US-based tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft, has subsequently been ruled as an illegal and has been shut down.

The Protect America Act

The US Justice Department has now released a detailed briefing of the reasoning for the decision in 2008, citing the Protect America Act, which had been enacted the previous year and allowed the NSA to harvest data on people they ‘reasonably believed’ to be a danger to the state.

Yahoo! has also released a statement on the court documents being released, stating elements of the case remain unknown to the company.

“Despite the declassification and release, portions of the documents remain sealed and classified to this day, unknown even to our team. The released documents underscore how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the U.S. Government’s surveillance efforts.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic