Reddit’s Warrant Canary Goes Dark

Mathew Sayer In the News

Reddit, the front page of the Internet, has removed their “warrant canary” signalling that it has received a request to hand over customer data. The architecture of Reddit means that all the diverse and perverse interests you can imagine are represented on the site.

The news of the canary’s death came in a post on /r/announcements discussing Reddit’s 2015 Transparency Report. Commenter slyf pointed out that the National Security Canary from the 2014 report was missing from the 2015 edition.

This is the second year Reddit has published a Transparency Report. The decision to do so was warmly welcomed by the Reddit community which has in the past been instrumental in supporting Internet rights and privacy campaigns such as SOPA and PIPA.

Reddit received 98 requests for user information, up from 55 in 2014, and produced information on accounts for 60% of those cases (up from 58% in 2014). The number of international requests also increased, with 21 foreign claims.

A new addition for 2016 is Reddit’s Guidelines for Law Enforcement, which acknowledges that many LEO are a bit slow on the uptake with technology.

While Reddit is doing all they legally can to protect their user’s privacy and encourage discussion on privacy, there are weak spots. In 2015, Reddit changed their privacy policy allowing them to sell users’ personal information to advertisers. Even worse enabling Do Not Track does not actually stop the collection of information. For more read this informative Imgur post.

What is a warrant canary?

A warrant canary is a term used to describe a statement posted by a service provider which says that they have not received a subpoena or a warrant that they cannot otherwise disclose to the public. When a service receives a legal request that contains a gag order, the canary is removed, alerting users to the otherwise unspeakable legal action.

If you are interested in adding a warrant canary to your website or service the Intercept‘s parent company First Look Media has an open-source program called AutoCanary, you should check out.


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