Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) are two companies that have been tied together by the National Security Agency’s PRISM online surveillance program as two of the nine companies that were mentioned by the NSA as being “partners” in some way with the snooping scheme. Microsoft has been well-documented in its tepid denials of active involvement in the program (though documents seem to reveal denial of the denials), while Yahoo! has been trying to yell from the rooftops to anyone that was willing to hear, that it absolutely was not actively involved in any effort by the NSA to gain access to servers.
Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), in fact, has gone a step further itn its adamant denials by even claiming that it had shunned some prior requests for user data by the federal government.
If only the company could actually have proof of these statements – the FISA gag orders being in place prevents companies from revealing details about government data requests, other than a periodic aggregate report of the numbers of requests made to a company over a certain period of time. So far, Yahoo! denials and statements about a lack of complicity with PRISM are only just statements. Can they be actually proven truthful?
Well, now it seems that Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) may have a chance after all to provide evidence of its reluctance to participate in PRISM. A federal judge this week has granted a court order petition by Yahoo! to force the federal government to de-classify a memorandum of opinion dated from April 2008, which Yahoo! claims would fortify its claims all along that it did not willingly participate in the online surveillance of users and did not provide user-specific data to the federal government in various FISA requests.
Now, of course, the government will have a couple of weeks ot turn over the memo, and will have the right to redact certain sensitive information, but how much of the redacted information will be germane to Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) and how much de-classified info will be available to Yahoo! to make its case for PRISM resistance remains to be seen.
In any event, the win can be a significant precedent for the tech companies involved in PRISM, and may give opportunities for other companies to step forward and demand their version of proof that they did not provide a “back door” to the NSA. As for Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)?