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.