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The US government threatened Internet giant Yahoo! with a $250,000 fine per day

The US government threatened Internet giant with a $250,000 fine per day several years ago if it failed to comply with National Security Agency’s notorious PRISM Surveillance program, according to unclassified court documents released by Yahoo! on Thursday.

The documents released by Yahoo! shed new lights on the NSA’s secret surveillance program PRISM, which was previously leaked from the agency’s confidential documents provided by Global surveillance whistleblower and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

PRISM allowed NSA to intercept and process not just the United States telecoms companies data including Verizon which has 98.9 million customers, but also some of the most widely used and major Internet firms including Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, Facebook and Skype. However, Officials have said the deeply contentious program ended in 2011.

"The released documents underscore how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the US Government’s surveillance efforts," the company's general counsel Ron Bell said on Yahoo's Tumblr page. "At one point, the US Government threatened the imposition of $250,000 in fines per day if we refused to comply."

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) of Review, which provides legal authority in surveillance requests, released more than 1,500 pages of previously secret documents related to Yahoo!'s 2007 challenge to the government's demand for data, according to Bell, who said that in 2007, the US government "amended a key law to demand user information from online services."

The Christopher Soghoian, Principal Technologist at ACLU, points out the $250k-a-day fine, which means $90m (£55.42m) fine a year, seems cheap for the trust of users worldwide. As Yahoo!'s net income in 2008 was $424.3m.

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