Yahoo was threatened with massive fines by the U.S. government if it refused to hand over users’ data, court documents released on Thursday show. The now declassified documents show Yahoo rebuffed NSA data requests in 2007 deeming them “unconstitutional and overbroad surveillance,” but faced a $250,000 fine for each day it resisted.
The 1,500 pages worth of documents show Yahoo fought a secret legal battle against the government, but lost in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA Court. “The company’s loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the National Security Agency extensive access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms,” according to the Washington Post. “The ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review became a key—but almost entirely secret—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.”
“The released documents underscore how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the U.S. Government’s surveillance efforts,” Yahoo general counsel, Ron Bell, said in a blog post on Thursday. “Today we are pleased to announce the release of more than 1,500 pages of once-secret papers from Yahoo’s 2007-2008 challenge to the expansion of U.S. surveillance laws.”