Yahoo Challenged PRISM in Court   

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 14 2013 5:02 PM

Yahoo Challenged PRISM in Court in 2008. It Lost.

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The Yahoo logo is displayed in front of the Yahoo headqarters in Sunnyvale, California

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Early reports suggested Twitter was going to emerge as one of the few top Silicon Valley companies to refuse government requests for information under its PRISM program. Turns out, Yahoo tried to fight as well. But it lost, according to the latest scoop by the New York Times’ Claire Cain Miller. Yahoo’s lawyers tried to push back against a government request for information at a secret court in Washington in 2008. Yahoo insisted that the government’s broad request for data was unconstitutional. The judges disagreed, and ordered the company to hand over the data and effectively join the National Security Agency’s PRISM program.

The case provided tech companies an important lesson: It’s not very useful to fight government requests in court. Indeed, lawyers acknowledge they rarely ever present legal challenges to secret requests for information even though they insist that they regularly push back and negotiate privately. But since the national security requests don’t even allow companies to acknowledge they exist, “it is difficult to know exactly how, and how often, the companies cooperate or resist,” notes the Times.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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