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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

New Website Monitors Warrant Canaries


  Since the publication of Edward Snowden’s revelations concerning NSA surveillance, there has been a heightened interest in the use of “warrant canaries.” A warrant canary is a notice posted by an internet service provider saying that the provider has not received any government requests that it would not be allowed to divulge. If the notice is discontinued, users can reasonably infer that the provider has received such a request. The “canary” in the name comes from the use of canaries to detect toxic gas in coal mines. Examples of the kinds of requests a provider would be prohibited from divulging include orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court—such as those used in the NSA’s PRISM and telephony metadata collection programs—and national security letters issued by the FBI.

Because it can be difficult to keep up with warrant canaries, or even to find out which service providers use them, a coalition called Canarywatch has launched a new website that tracks warrant canaries and keeps readers up to date on the latest developments. The coalition includes the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, NYU’s Technology Law and Policy Clinic, and the Calyx Institute. For more information on this project, and on warrant canaries generally, see the website’s FAQ page

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