Tim Sampson writes:
One of the most troubling aspects of online surveillance is its lack of transparency.
Under national security laws adopted after 9/11, government agencies have the ability to examine Internet records without notifying the public. In many cases, a website or ISP is subpoenaed to hand over records to the government and told that if it attempts to alert its users to what is happening it will be in violation of the law.
In response, many websites and ISPs have come up with an innovative solution to getting around national security gag orders. They will simply keep a message on the site—either on a separate page or at the bottom of the screen—telling users that they haven’t received any surveillance requests. The moment a site does receive such a request, it stops displaying or updating this message.
It’s the proverbial canary in a coal mine. The minute it stops making noise, you know there’s trouble. In fact, that’s what these messages have come to be called: warrant canaries. And now there is a new site dedicated to letting you know which canaries are safe and which have been compromised by secret subpoenas and warrants.
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