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Exclusive: Yahoo Seeks To Reveal Its Fight Against NSA Prism Requests

Publication Date: 
July 11, 2013
Source: 
San Jose Mercury News
Author: 
Brandon Bailey

Jennifer Granick, Director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, spoke with Brandon Bailey of the San Jose Mercury News on Yahoo's request to reveal its fight against NSA Prism requests and why revealing what went on in the court is critical.

In a rare legal move, Yahoo (YHOO) is asking a secretive U.S. surveillance court to let the public see its arguments in a 2008 case that played an important role in persuading tech companies to cooperate with a controversial government data-gathering effort.

Releasing those files would demonstrate that Yahoo "objected strenuously" to government demands for customers' information and would also help the public understand how surveillance programs are approved under federal law, the company argued in a filing with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court this week.

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"Revealing what went on in the court is critical to having a democracy," said Jennifer Stisa Granick, a civil liberties expert at Stanford law school's Center for Internet and Society.

In light of news reports that the surveillance court has issued broad opinions on constitutional issues in secret, Granick added, "If Yahoo is successful in revealing what the court did and why, then we will know more about the laws our government is purportedly operating under, which sadly we don't currently know."

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While the companies may be legitimately concerned about customers' privacy, they also have a strong commercial incentive, Granick noted.

"Obviously, Yahoo wants this information released because it wants users to feel that it's trustworthy," she said. "If Yahoo can show that it fought strenuously and really did its best to try to protect its users, that may make people feel more comfortable about Yahoo having their data."