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Yahoo fought back against 'unconstitutional' government order before joining PRISM: NYT

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Yahoo (STOCK)
Yahoo (STOCK)

Yahoo failed to overturn a government order in a court dispute that ultimately led the company to join PRISM, the NSA and FBI's controversial surveillance program, the New York Times reported. A heavily redacted document from 2008 shows a company — identified by the Times as Yahoo — petitioning the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to review an order from the government based on a belief that it violated the Fourth Amendment.

The FISC called Yahoo's concerns "overblown" in its decision, saying it is "settled beyond peradventure that incidental collections occurring as a result of constitutionally permissible acquisitions do not render those acquisitions unlawful."

Yahoo "presented no evidence of actual harm"

Yahoo "presented no evidence of actual harm," said the court, and that "where the government has instituted several layers of serviceable safeguards to protect individuals against unwarranted harms and to minimize incidental intrusions, its efforts to protect national security should not be frustrated by the courts."

Yahoo issued a rebuttal to "categorically false" allegations that it was involved in PRISM soon after news of the program first leaked. "Yahoo has not joined any program in which we volunteer to share user data with the U.S. government," said general counsel Ron Bell. "We do not voluntarily disclose user information. The only disclosures that occur are in response to specific demands."

The Washington Post reported this week that the government could collect data through PRISM without the knowledge of participating companies; only extremely high-level executives were said to be aware. Twitter has so far managed to abstain from participating in PRISM.