Search engine Yahoo has won a court case to release NSA records and potentially prove it resisted handing over customer data to US authorities. The ruling could clear Yahoo’s name following allegations it collaborated with the NSA to spy on citizens.
The US Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Court ruled that data, pertaining to a 2008 order for Yahoo to hand over customer information to US authorities, should be revealed.
“The Government shall conduct a declassification review of this Court’s Memorandum Opinion of [Yahoo’s case] and the legal briefs submitted by the parties to this Court,” the ruling read.
Through the ruling the Internet search engine seeks to prove that it did not collaborate with the NSA in its Prism spy program.
Classified documents leaked by former CIA employee Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA gathered supposedly private user information from the data banks of as Yahoo, Facebook Inc., Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and others. All of the organizations have denied being in cahoots with US authorities and maintain the NSA gleaned the information without their knowledge.
“Yahoo! takes users’ privacy very seriously. We do not provide the government with direct access to our servers, systems, or network,” said a company spokesperson back in June when Edward Snowden went public with the NSA leaks.
The company filed a request to the US Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Court on June 14 to make the 2008 case public. Yahoo says it means to help inform the public in the ongoing debate over the US government’s sweeping spy programs.
US authorities have not expressed any opinion over the data that is to be disclosed but has asked that they be given two week to review the information before its release.
Staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Mark Rumold, expressed doubts over the government’s transparency.
“It remains to be seen how forthcoming (the government) will be. The administration has said they want a debate about the propriety of the surveillance, but they haven’t really provided information to inform that debate. So declassifying these opinions is a very important place to start,” Rumold told AP.
EFF also noted in a statement that more companies could have made requests to the court and the Yahoo request had a gag order on it.
“We encourage every company that has opposed a FISA order or directive to move to unseal their oppositions so the public will have a better understanding of how they’ve fought for their users,” said the company.
Washington has come under fire for its sweeping surveillance programs, provoking the ire of civil rights groups. The Obama Administration justifies the covert gathering of meta-data as a measure against terrorism.