Yahoo has reportedly asked a US surveillance court open up the records from a 2008 case where the company made arguments against providing customer information to the government. As reported by the San Jose Mercury News, if allowed, those records are said to go a long way to help Yahoo explain to the public how surveillance programs are approved under federal law and that it didn’t cooperate with Prism requests.
At the heart of the matter is the US National Security Agency’s no-longer secretive surveillance program called Prism, which allegedly monitored user information and chatter on many popular websites. President Obama defended the program, but said that no American citizens were targets of the monitoring — something that was met with much skepticism.
In the immediate aftermath of the Prism leak by former Booz Allen Hamilton employee and NSA contractor Edward Snowden, tech companies were named as participants in the program, including Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Yahoo. All have fiercely denied involvement and have begun issuing transparency reports to track how many government requests they receive for user data.
In Yahoo’s 2008 case, the company seeks to shine light on the fact that its argument against data-gathering was rejected and this helped give the US government “powerful leverage” to get other tech companies to comply. While most court opinions would be public record, since it was heard in a FISA court, everything has been classified — even the FISA letters received are not supposed to be disclosed.
The Mercury News says that if Yahoo succeeds, it will be a historic achievement and could expose the veil of secrecy surrounding FISA cases, especially when it comes to Prism.
While Yahoo’s case is noteworthy, it’s not the only technology company seeking vindication against charges that it willingly participated in surveillance programs. Microsoft and Google have both filed requests with the court challenging the secrecy rulings.
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