Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer said she was afraid of being jailed for treason if she refused to comply with government demands to turn over Internet user data.
She made the remarks Wednesday after being asked at a TechCrunch Disrupt
conference in San Francisco what would happen if Yahoo had failed to comply with surveillance demands from the National Security Agency,reports Business Insider.
"If you don't comply, it's treason," Mayer explained, adding that she remains limited in what she could say about the NSA information requests.
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"We can't talk about it because it is classified. Releasing classified information is treason, and you are incarcerated. In terms of protecting our users, it makes more sense to work within the system," she said.
Mayer said the demands for information were going on long before she took over the company in 2012.
"I'm proud to be part of an organization that from the very beginning in 2007 . . . has been skeptical and has scrutinized those requests," she said, noting that Yahoo filed a lawsuit that year challenging the Patriot Act and the government's data-collection program.
"The thing is, we lost, and if you don't comply it's treason," she added.
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg joined Mayer at the conference in criticizing the NSA's heavy-handed tactics, according to The Guardian.
He maintained that the government had done a "bad job" of balancing people's privacy and its duty to protect, saying, "Frankly I think the government blew it."
Both Yahoo and Facebook have filed lawsuits to try to force the government into allowing them to provide more information to users about what kind of data is being accessed by the NSA.
Yahoo reportedly argues in its motion that it has "been unable to engage fully in the debate about whether the government has properly used its powers, because the government has placed a prior restraint on Yahoo's speech."
The motion continues, "Yahoo's inability to respond to news reports has harmed its reputation and has undermined its business not only in the United States but worldwide."
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