In the age of secret government snooping warrants — which come with gag orders prohibiting their recipients from revealing their existence — "warrant canaries" have emerged as the best way to keep an eye on out-of-control, unaccountable spying, and now they've gotten better.
Its not illegal for companies that publish "transparency reports" listing how many secret government spying demands they're received to say that they've received zero such requests, and it's not illegal for them to simply omit mention of secret spying demands once they receive such a warrant
A new joint project, Canarywatch, combines the efforts of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, New York University's Technology Law & Policy Clinic, and the Calyx Institute to track the status of all known warrant canaries.
Canarywatch lists the warrant canaries we know about, tracks changes or disappearances of those canaries, and allows users to submit canaries not listed on the site. For people with interest in a particular canary, the site will show any changes we know about. The page's FAQ explains the mechanics and legal theories underpinning warrant canaries. It also has an anatomy of a canary that, since canaries come in so many different forms, helps anyone understand what they're seeing when they look at a particular canary.
Warrant canaries are a unique tool ISPs have to provide users with more transparency about the government requests they do, and do not, receive. We hope the site will educate, improve the usefulness of warrant canaries for the general public, and help people with a special interest in canaries track them.
EFF Joins Coalition to Launch Canarywatch.org
(Image: Serinus canaria -Parque Rural del Nublo, Gran Canaria, Spain, Juan Emilio, CC-BY-SA)