The United States threatened Yahoo! with a $250,000 fine everyday in 2007 if the company did not surrender its online data in accordance to its surveillance program, newly declassified documents show.
A 1,500-page government document details the US threats to Yahoo if the latter did not surrender its data to the National Security Agency (NSA), which was then expanding its controversial PRISM data-gathering operations, according to the Associated Press.
“International terrorists, and (redacted) in particular, use Yahoo to communicate over the Internet,” Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence at the time, said in a court document supporting the government’s position.
“Any further delay in Yahoo’s compliance could cause great harm to the United States, as vital foreign intelligence information contained in communications to which only Yahoo has access, will go uncollected.”
The company deemed the move as unconstitutional: it secretly brought the matter into the court but eventually lost the battle, resulting in Yahoo turning over its online data to the NSA on May 12, 2008 to avoid the excessive fine.
The details of Yahoo’s legal dispute against the government came to light after a federal judge ordered the publication of Yahoo’s court challenge.
While Yahoo called the release of data a small victory, it criticized the government’s decision to conceal important parts of the document.
[quote text_size=”small” author=”–Rob Bell” author_title=”Yahoo general counsel”]
Despite the declassification and release, portions of the documents remain sealed and classified to this day, unknown even to our team,
He said the released documents underscore “how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the U.S. Government’s surveillance efforts.”
Part of NSA’s controversial PRISM data-gathering operation is to pressure American technology companies to handover their online information which includes users’ private data. This operated in years without public knowledge until whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed it in 2013.