In a move that seems geared to gaining customer trust, Yahoo is asking a secret court to publicly disclose the details of a controversial ruling that forced the Internet company to hand over private data, the Silicon Valley Mercury News reported Thursday.
Yahoo appears to be the first Internet company to make such a request of the ultra-secretive court of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The court is in the spotlight now after revelations published in the Guardian revealed that it isoverseeing the NSA's spying programs, in which customer data from major tech companies like Google and Microsoft are being collected.
"If Yahoo can show that it fought strenuously and really did its best to try to protect its users," Jennifer Stisa Granick, a civil liberties expert at Stanford law school's Center for Internet and Society told Mercury News, "that may make people feel more comfortable about Yahoo having their data."
Details of Yahoo's dealings with the secret court came to light on June 13 when a New York Times story detailed how the company's legal team fought a request seeking user information. Yahoo tried to argue the request was unconstitutional, the NYT reports, but was forced to give up the information.
The next day Yahoo filed a motion to release court records related to the case to the public, as the case was "now in the public interest." FISA agreed to release the fact that it was Yahoo who was involved in the case, but left all other details redacted.
Yahoo is now seeking to release more of the records that describe exactly what happened in court. Revealing these court documents is "critical to having a democracy," Granick told Mercury News.
As we now know, thanks to revelations leaked by Edward Snowden, the NSA has collected data from many other organizations, including Google, Microsoft, Skype, and Facebook. Yahoo, like many of these companies, has made it clear that it is not voluntarily giving the government any information, it only gives up the required information when the government lawfully demands it.