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Issue #1656      September 17, 2014

Yahoo faced fines over surveillance refusal

Yahoo has revealed that not cooperating with email surveillance could have cost the company a quarter of a million dollars a day in fines.

Newly released documents showed the US government tried to impose the huge fine in 2008 if Yahoo didn’t cooperate with an expansion of surveillance by surrendering online information.

“International terrorists ... use Yahoo to communicate over the internet,” claimed then director of national intelligence Mike McConnell in the documents. “Any further delay in Yahoo’s compliance could cause great harm to the US, as vital foreign intelligence information ... will go uncollected.”

The outlines of Yahoo’s ultimately unsuccessful court fight against government surveillance emerged when a federal judge ordered the unsealing of material about Yahoo’s court challenge. Yahoo said the government amended a law to demand user information from online services, prompting the challenge in 2007.

“Our challenge and later appeal in the case did not succeed,” Yahoo general counsel Ron Bell said. “We had to fight every step of the way to challenge the US government’s surveillance efforts,” Mr Bell added.

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