Yahoo! Fought Back Against PRISM, Lost In Secret Ruling

from the once-again dept

As more and more details come out about PRISM, it appears that the attention and blame really belongs on the government, rather than the tech companies (for the most part). While it was known that an unnamed company had fought back against FISA Court orders back in 2008, the name of the company was not known. However, now the NY Times is reporting that Yahoo! fought back against being told to provide info on users, until the court ruled against them — and the ruling (as an unnamed company and with details heavily redacted) was then released to put other companies on notice that they, too, had to comply. The rubber stamp FISA Court insisted that there was nothing wrong with the requests, saying that Yahoo’s concerns were “overblown.”

“Notwithstanding the parade of horribles trotted out by the petitioner, it has presented no evidence of any actual harm, any egregious risk of error, or any broad potential for abuse,” the court said, adding that the government’s “efforts to protect national security should not be frustrated by the courts.”

As the article points out, Google and Twitter have also fought back against various attempts by the federal government to reach deep into their databases — and, in both cases, have lost those lawsuits.

Of course, it appears that some companies, like Microsoft and the telcos are much more comfortable with providing info to the government.

It really seems like the focus of concern should very much be on the government’s requests here, as well as the secret FISA court and its rubber stamp, given that companies that have tried to fight back against the government keep losing.

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Companies: at&t, google, microsoft, twitter, verizon, yahoo

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Comments on “Yahoo! Fought Back Against PRISM, Lost In Secret Ruling”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Yeah, about that...

‘…it has presented no evidence of any actual harm, any egregious risk of error, or any broad potential for abuse,? the court said’

Kinda hard for a person or company to do that, when all details that would show such harm or abuse are classified due to ‘national security’ reasons, and any time they are sought or somehow manage to slip through the cracks and go public the request/evidence is squashed and prevented from being presented for those same reasons.

Jay (profile) says:

Not the government...

I think we’re approaching this wrongly…

If the reporting on this is true, then I’m not going to blame the government.

Okay, put down your pitchforks and let me explain…

I’ve always ran on the idea that people respond to incentives. While I accept that the government did want more power, there’s a second story at play here…

Who is the government trying to protect? As far as I can gather, with the HBGary leak, the Manning leaks, and now the Prism leaks, there’s a recurring theme…

I have to put my money on the contractors and the competition to Wikileaks wanting to erase anyone that opposes them. Our government already outsources 70% of their contracts to Booz Allen, Halliburton, and other private information contractors.

So how is it any wonder that the government shares interests with the people it protects?

We lost our democratic republic and the government works for the highest bidder. And the bidders are the Stratfors, and other defense contractors that milk taxpayer dollars for their own salaries and are unscrupulous when it comes to using the government to do their bidding.

I mean hell, the corruption laundering has been going on for so long that we have corporate interests in how people enjoy the arts as well as what information is public.

Is it really that much of a stretch to think that our government is not what the people wanted but what the people in high positions of power want?

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not the government...

I think a better idea might be to focus on the people they protect. If you focus on the government, it leads to private actors to repeat the process. That was the point I wanted to make. Any focus on the government should also focus on the private actors that they’re protecting or we’ll see a repeat of this and that’s what I want to avoid.

horse with no name says:

Re: That settles that

Why? Yahoo came to court with a bunch of “it might” and “it possible” and “it coulds”… things with no actual basis, no proof by example, just a bunch of fears. Should the courts block access by fear alone?

It says pretty much that Yahoo’s objections were based on only what in extreme cases might happen, and considering the record since that date, have been shown to be entirely unfounded.

The only rubber stamp in play here is the one that keeps hammering NSA SURVEILLANCE in the Google search results.

DCX2 says:

Re: Re: That settles that

It’s a shame that when the abuses finally do come to light, you probably won’t have the gumption to own up to the fact that you were wrong.

After all, letting the police go searching through everyone’s homes for criminals without a warrant is full of “it mights” and “it’s possible” and “it coulds”. So long as we trust the police to be professional, efforts to protect the public from criminals should not be frustrated by the Court. Right?

I mean, it’s not like some previous President was wiretapping his political opponents under the auspice of Article II powers to protect the nation during a time of war…

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Why does anonymity/privacy lover Mike Masnick have the moderation filter catching posts of users utilizing TOR? Hmm….

We don’t. We use a variety of anti-spam filters to catch spam, and it sometimes catches legitimate comments, which we tend to free up within hours (a bit longer over the weekend and late at night). It is true that tor-based comments are slightly more likely to be caught in the filter because (shockingly) tor is often used by spammers. However, if the comments are legit, we free them pretty quickly. Also, it does not catch all tor comments. Many of them get through no problem. The system uses a variety of heuristics to figure out what is and what is not spam.

The system that catches those comments catches approximately 1,000 spam comments per day. It tends to catch very, very few legitimate comments, and those it does catch are put live on the site pretty quickly.

We have no problem with people using tor.

out_of_the_blue says:

Mike defends Google with "no evidence of any actual harm"

Okay, it’s “no evidence of real harm” in this link, and he coyly omits specific names, but Mike’s standard is clear that despite all history we must never anticipate any evil will be done by corporations:
Fanboys won’t concede the point, hardly surprising.

Anyhoo, the Qwest example of a corporation that objected publicly is still good. You can use the evil Google yourself if interested: I don’t expose myself to its toxic lure too often. But PUBLIC OBJECTION is what Yahoo and Google and any others should do. You can’t fight the gov’t by yourself, not even Google (as if wanted to: pffft!); it takes a whole nation to say NO to the gov’t.

So, corporations, follow Snowden’s example of PUBLIC WHISTLEBLOWING FROM NOW ON, or we’re just not going to believe that you’re on our side.

Anonymous Coward says:

like all things done in secret, there is something to hide! perhaps if the ‘court’ had been held openly, so that everyone knew what was happening, who was involved and why, the conclusion reached may have been different. this shows exactly which way the ruling was going to go. the explanation was total crap! the ones that reached it knew it but still came out with it. they should be severely reprimanded and removed from office straight away. they obviously cannot be trusted to carry out objectively the job they were doing.

out_of_the_blue says:

So, Yahoo, what heroics have you done for us lately?

First, I made no less than THREE major mistakes in my previous post:

) “Mike’s standard” should be “Mike’s libertarian notions”.
) Distraction with taking a dig at Mike, not just yours but mine,
) when I’d lurched into the most important point to be made, failed to see how important it is as titled here.

So, Google, Yahoo, and all, don’t just tell us that you tried and your hands were tied by the court, we just have to live with this new level of tyranny. No matter is ever settled until it’s approved by the public. Despite NO action on YOUR part, this matter is now public, and opinion is CLEAR on how you’re regarded as being in cahoots with the over-reaching gov’t. So NOW is the time for action. — IF you really want to serve the public good.

By the way, my opinion on why so many names have been put out is purposely to diffuse the blame: they’re all doing it, public can’t take it out any one. — And now they’ve expanded it to literally THOUSANDS of firms. This “leak” STILL has all the signs of a limited hangout intelligence psyop.

DCX2 says:

Rubber stamp?

I see a lot of talk about how FISC is a rubber stamp. In isolation, the statistics certainly are a bit damning.

However, I would like to know what ratio of Federal wiretap warrants are rejected by judges. This way we could compare “traditional” wiretap approval rates with FISA approval rates.

I mean, if I was going to ask a judge for a wiretap, I’d have my shit together. Having your shit together might explain why the vast majority of the time, the wiretaps are approved. That said, it does seem fishy that there is a vanishingly tiny amount of wiretaps rejected by the FISC.

DCX2 says:

Re: Rubber stamp?

That’s the 2010 Wiretap Report. Note that it does not include FISA, it’s just “traditional” wiretaps.

In 2010, only one wiretap was denied. (page 7, second paragraph, third sentence)

It appears that FISC is no more and no less a rubber stamp than any other Federal or State Court.

TechnoMage (profile) says:

XBOX One ... aka.. Xbox (D)One

So the key line in this for gamers and people interested in the new video game consoles.. is:

“Of course, it appears that some companies, like Microsoft and the telcos are much more comfortable with providing info to the government. “

Yeah… Microsoft… Try convincing people that you should be trusted with 1080p HD cameras in people’s living rooms/bedrooms with highly sensitive microphones that are REQUIRED to online… I don’t care what you say about “wanting to protect my privacy”, I don’t care what you say… at all… Because you didn’t… fight for my rights when it mattered…

Just imagine how quickly the DOJ or DAs will ask for the courts to allow wiretapping the video/audio of xbox one(s)… Is going to happen immediately. How amazing would that be for police to WATCH the suspect in 1080p HD camera… that THE SUSPECT put in his own house…

*doesn’t want to be paranoid… but geeze… buying this system is just asking for trouble….* And all this news coming out the week before/of E3, the largest video game conference there is… is HORRIBLE timing for MS.

BearGriz72 (profile) says:

Re: XBOX One ... aka.. Xbox (D)One

Puts on tinfoil hat
Yeah, I doubt I would have purchased an Xbox One (at least not at retail launch prices) anytime soon, but this puts a nail in it.
There is NO WAY you are getting one of these in my house now, even if a friend brought one over I would probably make him/her tape over the camera and mic.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: XBOX One ... aka.. Xbox (D)One

It can(via the Kinect), but for the 360 it’s optional, you can plug it in(assuming you bought one anyway), or leave it unconnected, and the system works fine either way. The XBone on the other hand will not work if the built in Kinect is disabled, so if you want to use the system, but don’t care to be potentially spied on in your house, too bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

So what exactly happens to a highly visible public company whey they refuse to follow a secret ruling? Do they trump up charges for the leadership to punish them? Seems like a company with some balls would just say “We’re not complying, if you don’t like it we’ll be happy to tell the public why we’re being arrested”

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