NSA Forced Yahoo To Supply User Info or Pay Big Fines

With financial threats like these, Yahoo didnEUt seem to have much of an option. The U.S. government set out to fine the search engine company $250,000 a day in 2008 if it did not cooperate with requests to hand over user communications. The Washington Post first broke the story.

Although Yahoo viewed the demands as unconstitutional, the Post obtained documents that were unsealed on Thursday showing how federal officials EUforcedEU American technology companies to participate in the National Security AgencyEUs (NSA) controversial PRISM program.

PRISM is a secret electronic surveillance data-mining program. The NSA launched PRISM in 2007 and at some point allied with BritainEUs Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to collect stored web communications. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook and others were involved and started putting out transparency reports outlining the data requests governments were making in response.

EUThe ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review became a key moment in the development of PRISM, helping government officials to convince other Silicon Valley companies that unprecedented data demands had been tested in the courts and found constitutionally sound,EU the Post reported. The FISC is a secret court that oversees requests by the U.S. government for surveillance orders and other types of legal process in national security investigations.

Yahoo Had No Choice

We caught up with Greg Sterling, Vice President of the Local Search Association, to get his thoughts on the issues surrounding Yahoo. He told us Yahoo didnEUt have many options in 2008 after it challenged the request with the FISC and lost.

EUThis illustrates the leverage that the U.S. has over domestic Internet companies and how, despite Yahoo's efforts to protect its users, it was forced to comply,EU Sterling said. EUUltimately, in this situation, Yahoo had no choice but to hand over the information.EU

Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell announced on Thursday that the company...

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