Reddit kills snooping 'warrant canary'

A canary Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Reddit's 'warrant canary' has disappeared

Online community Reddit has dropped its "warrant canary" from its latest transparency report.

A warrant canary is a statement declaring that a website has not received any classified data requests from government or law enforcement.

It is named after the early-warning birds which were taken down mine shafts to alert workers of toxic gases.

Reddit's 2014 report stated it had not received any classified demands, but the 2015 update did not say this.

Canary's demise

The FBI can issue national security letters to conduct online surveillance in the US without court approval, but requests often come with a gagging order, which prevents websites from publicly disclosing them.

To get around this, many websites state that they have not received any classified requests.

Once the disclaimer vanishes from the transparency report, visitors might assume a secret request has been made.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Canaries were sent down mines, as they were more sensitive to toxic gases than humans

Reddit published its first transparency report in 2015, complete with a warrant canary that said: "As of January 29, 2015, Reddit has never received a National Security Letter, an order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or any other classified request for user information."

When asked about the disappearance of the canary from the latest report, one Reddit administrator wrote: "I've been advised not to say anything one way or the other".

The site said it had received 98 requests that it was allowed to disclose in 2015, almost double the amount it received in 2014.

It complied with 60% of the requests, two-thirds of which originated in the United States.

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