back to article US! govt! ordered! Yahoo! to! hand! over! user! data! or! pay! $250k! fine! PER! DAY!

Yahoo! has tried to explain why it buckled under pressure from Uncle Sam to hand over its users' data to the US government - by promising to publish the court documents which ordered the snooping. Said filings will, we're told, show Uncle Sam threatened to make Yahoo! pay a $250,000 fine for every day it refused to hand over …

  1. JCitizen

    I used to concider Yahoo! as the scourge of the email giants..

    but now, I may have to reconsider! I have to use it for my research groups anyway!

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. NoneSuch Silver badge

      Re: I used to concider Yahoo! as the scourge of the email giants..

      Make note that of all these corporations and the hundreds if not thousands of people who knew what was going on, NOT ONE went to a newspaper and became a confidential source. This took place over years and no one said anything until Ed Snowden snatched the honor.

      If they (Google, Yahoo, MS, et al.) truly felt this was unconstitutional they should have A) Made a public declaration and fought it out in court or B) made a bee line for the newspapers as confidential informants and stopped this in the tracks.

      They didn't and here we are. The one person who did something about this is vilified and on the run from American "Justice". There's only one hero in this story.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: I used to concider Yahoo! as the scourge of the email giants..

        Snowden pretty much had to give up his career and home country to do what he did. I imagine most of the Yahoo executives in a position to blow the whistle on this had families. Going up against the US government when you're being taken to secret courts not only means a lot of personal bravery but knowing you could be taken away from your partner or children and leaving them without support. That's not an easy thing to do.

        Seeing that Yahoo really tried to fight this and the sort of pressures that were put on them actually does buy them a lot of credit with me.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Well, Yahoo! seems to have been thoroughly penetrated by the NSA, but

    You have to give them some credit for being willing to push things to the point that the government threatened them with a $250K-a-day fine for non-compliance with what sounds like ONE data request. So they didn't just completely roll over.

    On the other hand:

    -Yahoo! pages spoofed by the NSA to phish for real, alledged or imaginary bad guys? Check

    -Yahoo! chat text compromised by the NSA? Check

    -Yahoo! video chat stills grabbed by the GCHQ? Check

    -Yahoo! mail accounts accessible by the NSA? Check

    -Fiber-optic cables carrying inter-datacenter Yahoo! traffic compromised by NSA? Check

    -Yahoo! dragging it's feet too much on encrypting inter-datacenter traffic once fiber-optic taps disclosed? Check

    So, the verdict seems to be Yahoo! had (hopefully still has) some legal backbone to fight the NSA and it's masters, but Yahoo!'s IT security is not so great.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yahoo!'s IT security is not so great

      You use present tense but, as seen from many stories in the last 3 months, their security has been significantly revamped (not hard admittedly given the start point), taking them further than many/all of the other free email services

  3. willi0000000


    Yahoo was threatened with $250k a day fines for refusing a FISA order. $90 mil a year seems pretty cheap for the trust of users worldwide.

    one wonders how many stockholders would put up with paying over $90 million dollars for one year's reputation?

    and what would the fine increase to* until compliance is achieved?

    * how high is "up?"

  4. John Robson Silver badge


    Line on this year's published reports:

    - Protecting user privacy against unconstitutional surveillance from US Gvt. $90m (See Secret court transcripts #2343/24b)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Corporate propaganda

    So what, they protested a bit before rolling over, colour me unimpressed. I might take some notice if they did actually stand up and refuse to cooperate. After all, do you seriously think the US gov would go so far as to bankrupt and close down major tech companies such as Yahoo, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc ?

    The likes of small fish like Lavabit are one thing, but these companies have serious clout and power and they could have made a difference but they chose not to, so fuck them.

  6. ratfox

    "$90 mil a year seems pretty cheap for the trust of users worldwide." Csoghoian

    Well, fuck you. Let's see you pay a third of your income fighting the government in a secret case that nobody would ever know about.

    1. Justicesays


      I'm not sure exactly how no-one would find out about it if your company was paying $250k a day in fines and still expected to submit accurate financial reports.

      Once it got out that you were paying $250k a day in fines to a secret court no one can talk about it would become pretty obvious what that money was for...

    2. Tom 13


      Yes, it it weren't so depressing it would be amusing that people expect corporations to behave better than they would in the same circumstances.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @ratfox

        Yahoo! is publicly listed in the U.S., which means its officers have a fiduciary responsibility toward shareholders' money, including the profits. If it came out that Yahoo! management was accepting fines resulting in a 25% hit to profits in order to perpetuate a legal conflict with the NSA and FISC, they would get their asses sued by this time tomorrow.

        Yahoo!'s management might well win the resulting public relations war, but they'd get their clocks cleaned in the shareholder lawsuit, up to and including ending some Yahoo! executive's careers.

        People can't ask them to fight it out with the U.S. government under those circumstances.

  7. jake Silver badge

    Which statute, exactly ...

    ... allows the arbitrary US$250K/day fine?

    "Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." says absolutely nothing about "the NSA is above the law". The kiddies at Yahoo! shit their pants & backed down. If they had held their ground, the SCotUS would have (eventually) backed Yahoo! on Fourth Amendment grounds.

    This overbearing NSA shit is getting ridiculous, and I don't even use the likes of !GooMyFaceYouMSTwit.

    Elections are coming. I vote. Do you?

  8. brooxta

    diminishing returns

    Presumably the more these stories hit the press the less actual outlaws etc actually use these services for anything significant. So the more the govts trawl these sources the more they are focusing on innocents and the less they are gaining useful intel on actual terrorists.

    These broad tools appear only to make the "security" forces jobs harder in the long run.

    1. Chrissy

      Re: diminishing returns

      You're making the assumption that "terrorists" were ever the primary target of this surveillance in the first place.....

      ...Are there really 1.8million terrorists in the UK?

      Remember... to the authoritarian mindset, no-one is "innocent"; we just haven't been caught yet.

  9. solo

    Yahoo! As! I ! Always! Knew!

    "..but we are also committed to protecting users’ data.."

    Who! are! 'We'!? Was! it! marissa! mayer! back! then!? They are corporate overlords. Once they switch the company, they are free from all the guilt.

    But I will have to admit that what kept Yahoo! as my default email provider till now is its series of failures.

    - Yahoo! Briefcase: closed

    - Yahoo! Photos: closed

    - Yahoo! Chat User Defined Rooms: closed

    All through these sad announcements, I kept feeling the very strong signals from someone insider.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. theOtherJT

    Surely the best way to combat this is just to immediately announce it and refuse to co-operate.

    "We've been required to hand over your data without telling you. We refuse. We've been fined 250K a day for our refusal and ordered not to tell you about that either. We refuse both the gagging order and to pay the fine. We've been taken to a secret court over our refusals, and ordered not to tell you that we've been taken to a secret court. We refuse to remain silent."

    Mass refusal to play ball from all the major companies would surely force the government to back down. We've already pretty clearly established that they can't actually send anyone to Jail, so other than fining the company, what can they do?

    If the original order is found to be unconstitutional - which I think we're all largely agreed that it will be - then all the consequences of refusing to keep silent eventually go away. Just keep refusing to co-operate as publicly as possible.

    If some higher (public) court ultimately decides that they do need to pay a fine, you want to make sure that that fine is so utterly huge that it will most definitely bankrupt the company. That's a wonderful piece of PR that will play out beautifully in the media.

    "We're closing our business because the government bankrupted us in order to act against your interests. Terribly sorry about all the jobs and that. Please consider this come election time."

    1. Tom 13

      I think I found your problem

      If the original order is found to be unconstitutional - which I think we're all largely agreed that it will be...

      If you really feel that way, you haven't thought this through at all. If it was that simple, and that obvious SCOTUS wouldn't continuously denied standing to challenge the court. They grant standing and issue the order. That they continue to allow the FISA courts to work as they are without granting cert is the surest sign they'd probably rule the other way. Once the ruling was made, it would not be revocable. By continuing to funnel it through the FISA courts, if the legislatures ever do away with the FISA courts, the problem goes away.

      I'm not saying that's the way it OUGHT to be, but if SCOTUS were ruling according to the way things OUGHT to be instead of according to the whims of one or two men on the court who are regularly referred to as the "swing votes" instead of the more accurate "roulette wheel" 0bamacare would have been ruled unconstitutional at all levels without even much of a trial and a nice old lady in New London, CT would still own her home instead of it being a field of grass.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It might eventually force the government to back down, but in the meantime numerous Yahoo! execs will be getting thrown into jail for contempt of court and the government might even force the company into liquidation.

      No exec team is going to take that stand.

      1. Oninoshiko

        Microsoft's did, just a couple of days ago.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the United States, no political party has any plans to clamp down on the activities of the NSA. It will not be a question of if, but when the US government uses this information to clamp down on dissidents and any one who does not agree with its policies.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yup--Yahoo's partial release of the secrets contained in the case made against them is mere window dressing. The spying will not stop until the Fusion Centers and all similar tools of tyranny are burned to the ground and the "security" personel are sent packing! Noting of merit or substance is being done about the matter by our masters and rulers.

  13. Looper

    It! Seems! That!...

    Marketing Hack and Tom 13 are both NSA shills...

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