The first impression is often the longest-lasting. Because of that truism, and a bit of misinformation about the government’s secret PRISM program, Yahoo! and a number of other major tech companies will be fighting an uphill battle to regain their reputation amongst the increasingly disgruntled public.
Yahoo! has just won the first battle in that long war, as they won a motion yesterday to declassify the original court documents in their PRISM case, reports CNET. Five years ago, Yahoo! went to court to fight the government order that required them to join PRISM, citing concerns over users’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
And while users’ faith in complete security may never return, release of the documents may go a long way towards repairing Yahoo!’s reputation.
PRISM Myths Debunked
The first reports about PRISM painted a startling picture: the National Security Agency had untapped access to the servers of nearly every major Internet company. The reports were especially disturbing in light of the prior day's Verizon revelation -- that the government had been tracking metadata (calling records, GPS locations, etc.) from every Verizon customer in America.
It turns out that the PRISM reports may have been overblown. A number of representatives from the implicated tech companies and the government came forward and tried to debunk the "untapped access" reports. Instead, they maintain that data is only disclosed upon receipt of a specific order for a specific person, such as a terrorism suspect.
Going Down Fighting
While the hopefully soon-to-be released documents obviously won't prove that Yahoo! didn't participate in PRISM, they hope that it will prove to consumers that they were forced to participate, and that they fought the order as much as possible.
The brief court order gives the government until July 29, 2013 to determine how long it will take them to review the court order, and the parties' legal briefs, to determine what classified information needs to be redacted. Once the review is completed, the court's Memorandum Opinion and the briefs will be released.
Of course, knowing the speed of the government, it could be months before we actually see the documents. By then, of course, the public will have moved on to the next scandal, with memories of a possibly overstated PRISM still burned in their memories.
Even armed with proof of their resistance, Yahoo!'s P.R. war is just beginning.
- In Re Directives Pursuant to Section 105B of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Order)
- Yahoo wins court order to release records of its fight against PRISM (Daily Dot)
- Privacy Group Goes Straight to SCOTUS With FISC Verizon Petition (FindLaw's Technologist)