Secret court agrees to unseal Yahoo's case against surveillance

Yahoo scored a legal win on Monday after the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court agreed to unseal its argument in a 2008 case against government surveillance.

FISC judge Reggie Walton filed an order that directed the government to conduct a declassification review of the 2008 ruling and the legal briefs submitted to the court on the case. The court said it will redact classified information in the public version of the ruling.


The Web company says the documents will show it pushed back against government requests for user information. The handling of consumer data by tech companies has been under scrutiny since revelations about National Security Agency surveillance programs that target the Internet.

The reports claimed that top Web companies had given the government access to servers that store user information.

Yahoo cheered the court's decision and said the documents will help shed more light on efforts to safeguard online privacy.

"Once these documents are made public, we believe they will contribute constructively to the ongoing public discussion around online privacy," a Yahoo spokesman said in a statement. 

Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel at The Constitution Project, called the move a "very positive development" but noted that more needs to be done to increase transparency around the government's surveillance programs.

"We're glad to see this move toward much needed, greater transparency," Franklin said. "It's a first step. It's not going to get us all the way there, but it's definitely a very positive development."

Yahoo lost its fight in 2008 against government requests for user information, and the secret court's ruling has been used to force other major tech companies to comply with surveillance requests, according to The San Jose Mercury News, which first reported on the secret court's approval to unseal Yahoo's 2008 argument.

Google and Microsoft have also filed petitions with the court seeking permission to publish the number of national security requests they receive for user information. The two companies have argued that publishing those figures would counter reports claiming that they gave the government sweeping access to user data.