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Last week, a so-called “warrant canary” in Reddit’s 2014 transparency report -- affirming that the company had never received a national security–related request for user information -- disappeared from its 2015 report. What might have happened? What does it mean? And what can we do now?

A bit about us: More than a decade ago, Nick Merrill, who ran a small Internet-access and consulting business, received a secretive demand for customer information from the FBI. Nick came to the ACLU for help, and together we fought in court to strike down parts of the NSL statute as unconstitutional — twice. Nick was the first person to challenge an NSL and the first person to be fully released from the NSL's gag order.

Click here for background and some analysis of the case of Reddit’s warrant canary.

Click here for a discussion of the Nick Merrill case.

Proof that we are who we say we are:


Nick Merrill:

Brett Max Kaufman:

Alex Abdo:

Neema Singh Guliani:

Patrick Toomey:

Comments: 685 • Responses: 1  • Date: 

Frajer60 karma

How concerning is the disappearance of the Canary ?

alexabdo110 karma

It is very difficult to know how troubled we should be by the disappearance of the canary, but here's how I think of it:

1 - We should all be troubled by how little we know about how the government uses the broad range of legal authorities it has to force companies to disclose sensitive information about their users. We don't even know, for example, how many U.S. persons get swept up in the NSA's PRISM and UPSTREAM surveillance. And we know even less about how many foreigners not suspected of any wrongdoing whatsoever get swept up.

2 - The facts in reddit's case in particular could go either way. For example, it's possible that the request was very targeted and in pursuit of someone we would all agree should be investigated. It's also possible that it was a fishing expedition. But we don't know the facts at this point, and we don't even know which legal authority the government was relying on. And we might not know either of those things for a long time.

3 - The fact that we know so little about reddit's particular request is perhaps a product of a broken system for allowing companies to report on the requests they receive. Companies are allowed to report on the requests, but generally only in broad categories and in large reporting "bands." See Sec. 603 in the USA Freedom Act. The companies should be allowed to report with greater detail.

aclu81 karma

Here's some more background on reddit’s canary.