According to Ron Bell, Yahoo’s general counsel, more than 1,500 pages of documents deemed to be previously secret and relating to Yahoo’s challenge to the government were released by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. In 2007, the government demanded user data from Yahoo but it refused to comply with requests for having the documents turned over.
As stated by Bell, the government had amended a critical law to demand user data from online services and as such, Yahoo refused to comply. The company felt at that time that the request made was both unconstitutional and overbroad surveillance. For that reason, the United States government’s authority was challenged.
Both the Guardian, based in London, and The Post broke the news this past June about the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency siphoning personal data from main computer servers connected to nine large internet firms in the United States. In proof of the claim being made, Edward Snowden provided vital documents.
However, Yahoo declined to participate back in 2007 but unfortunately, the case to avoid turning over user data was lost in court and on appeal. As a result, a court order was handed down demanding Yahoo comply. Now with threats of being fined, Yahoo plans to make the information available. However, with no public docket available online, documents have not yet been handed over.
Bell goes on to say that as far as transparency, Yahoo feels this is a huge win. The company hopes the records will prompt discussions pertaining to the relationship between due process, privacy, and intelligence gathering.
Bell does advise that there are portions of some of the released documents that will continue to be “classified”. Yahoo takes public safety seriously but at the same time, the company is strongly committed to keeping user data protected. For that reason, requests and laws considered unclear, unlawful, or overboard will still be contested.