back to article Reddit's warrant canary shuffles off this mortal coil

It appears that Reddit has been the recipient of a National Security Letter, after the warrant canary it has published in its annual transparency reports has disappeared. A warrant canary is a technique whereby companies can get around the restrictions involved with National Security Letters, which typically bar the recipient …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    If our beloved vulture disappears should we be worried?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Yes, because not being nice to politiicans is increasingly becoming a tarring & feathering offense (some NATO members go further)

  2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    It's not dead

    Just pining for the fjords.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Assume the worst

    Reddit is now a PRISM member.

    Enjoy your secret courts, and lack of civil liberties 'muricans. You brought this on yourself.

    1. bleh_meh

      Re: Assume the worst

      thats fine by me, all they will get is a pile of dickbutt gifs

      1. LaeMing

        Re: Assume the worst

        As Drew sang:

        "I put 100,000 pictures of my butt on the internet / so the NSA could spy on it / keep an eye on it / maybe call the FBI on it"

        The whole song is worth a listen (slightly NSFW).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Assume the worst

      All of America is part of PRISM, silly.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: Assume the worst

        All of America the internet is part of PRISM, silly.

        FTFY. No charge.

  4. raving angry loony


    Someone elsewhere commented about (to paraphrase) how could I possibly think that anyone was more serious about democracy and civil liberties than the Americans.

    I just have to point at shit like this and say "up yours".

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Democracy?

      "how could I possibly think that anyone was more serious about democracy and civil liberties than the Americans."

      The Finnish?

      The Swiss?

  5. Anonymous Coward

    You can't spell Reddit...

    Without an N-S-A!

  6. Ole Juul

    Tor time

    Get it here.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tor time

      "NSA special" mate.

  7. frank ly

    re. The picture

    It's not a canary, it's some kind of tit. Great or Blue (maybe), I'm not an expert.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: re. The picture

      You're right. Can't tell which from the pose (I'm not an expert, just a casual garden watcher). I guess a tit picture is appropriate, given this is el Reg.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: re. The picture

        Bluetit. Must be the cold.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up

          Re: re. The picture

          Came to say the same.. although with subtly different phrasing.


          Much combobulated to observe the comentarderate functioning so proficiently.

    2. David Pollard

      Re: re. The picture

      Maybe someone has been reading 'Meetings with remarkable men' and been impressed with George Gurdjieff's reputed use of yellow dye to avail himself of canaries for resale. It's all too easy to muddle canaries and canards.

  8. Alistair

    Whut? Canary?

    Just because :

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Whut? Canary?

      No, the other canaries.

  9. dan1980

    While the idea of a 'warrant canary' is a good one, is there any reason it can't be updated more regularly?

    Having one at all means that you want your users to know so they can act accordingly. And, if that is the case then wouldn't you want your users to know as soon as possible?

    Might you not also have several canaries to cover multiple possible NSLs?

    Sure, that's a bit more work but might it not be to the site's benefit? As the author says, the secretive nature of NSLs means that, while this could be a very narrow, well-justified request for specific information on a single person, it could also be a wholesale integration of Reddit servers into the NSA's data-gobbling behemoth.

    And, while the former may seem more likely to some, when the secrecy is coupled with the known range of the NSA's powers and their proven eagerness to use them in exceptionally broad applications, the latter possibility cannot be discounted.

    That being the case, there are those who will now assume that this is the case and as a result may cease using Reddit entirely.

    So might it not be better then to maintain multiple 'canaries' - one for specific requests, one for broad scoops and one for the wholesale compromise of the site and its users' data?

    Again, that they do this at all shows they want to inform their users of when the government is poking around, and part of that is no doubt to give their users more confidence and trust in the site. A binary NSL/no-NSL flag doesn't seem the best way to do that.

    1. beep54
      Big Brother

      @Dan1980: Just guessing here, but perhaps they don't want to do what you suggest because that might run too much afoul the law. Just having a warrant canary in the first place seems to be close already (sad to say).

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Time for a little glasnost perhaps, tovarich?

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Just having a warrant canary in the first place seems to be close already (sad to say)."

        Maybe, given that it requires a specific statement. However, an alternative occurred to me as I was typing the comment about the vulture. Why not simply put a picture of a canary in the site's banner. No need to say what it is, people will just get the meaning PDQ. It could be removed instantly but given that its meaning would be implicit it would be difficult to bring about a prosecution. After all it would just be a picture of a canary. The only problem would be that people would confuse it with the twit's bird.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Dead Vulture

          Just *fill* the vulture canary yellow and serve it from a machine located in a comparatively free and civil society run buy someone with an uncanny ability to sniff out shenanigans and of comparatively free and civil nationality. Scandinavia, Russia, China, Switzerland, Austria, Saudi Arabia... practically anywhere really...

          Not gonna happen of course. Dear old Reg has been a fully fawning company house for some time now.


          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Anonymous coward ... Gravestone icon. How?

            Illuminati confirmed.

            1. Anonymous Coward

              It's all in the wrist

            2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

              "Anonymous coward ... Gravestone icon. How?"

              Ask 1980s_coder.

              Something to do with a previous design of the website and the ability to call up resources still on the server and/or a reacharound that enables one to embed own graphics. Or something like that. Not my field, really.

          2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

            "... a comparatively free and civil society ... and of comparatively free and civil nationality. Scandinavia, Russia, China, Switzerland, Austria, Saudi Arabia... "


    2. John Sturdy
      Black Helicopters

      The NSA might even like that

      The problem with that is that it gives more information to the NSA, as they look at which users stop using the service when the canary disappears; it'll be a clue as to who wants to hide what.

  10. fpx

    Easily Defeated

    If I were the NSA, I would send trivial NSLs to every company that has a warrant canary, preemptively.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Defeat Easily Defeated

      Then leave the canary in place and no kitten videos will be harmed. Shirley.

  11. IglooDude

    Or you could get like Australia, that has made warrant canaries themselves illegal.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Paris Hilton


      "That two-finger salute went up there on 21st for no particular reason. Probably hackers. Nobody knows what it means, really. A "warrant canary"? Some new type of officer, m'lord?"

    2. Not That Andrew

      Like the RSA in the Bad Old Days, where they first banned papers from publishing with areas left blank where censored articles would have gone, then from saying they had been censored and finally from mentioning they might have been censored.

  12. Velv

    Reddit to be first prosecuted for breaching terms of the letter

    Reddit have by removing the canary taken an action which tells everyone that a National Security Letter has been served, and that is likely in breach of the conditions of the letter.

    It remains to be tested in court, but Reddit is high profile enough that I can see this being the first to be pushed by the government (I guess it depends on the content of the letter and when the relevant agency is willing to make the details public in court).

    While the warrant canary is a nice idea, it's not as neat as people think.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Reddit to be first prosecuted for breaching terms of the letter

      True. Nicer ideas involve lots of pitchforks and 5.56 ammo and high worthies being dragged through streets behind horses.

  13. Dave 32

    NSLs and the First Amendment

    NSLs violation of the First Amendment are being battled out in court, but the case is still somewhat up in the air:

    Plus, we won't know for sure until an appeal reaches the Supreme Court.


    P.S. I'll get my coat; it's the one with the mail order law degree in the pocket.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: NSLs and the First Amendment

      If it reaches the Supreme Court anytime soon, and they think they have only four votes, they'd be best served to try to delay it until about next year at this time since it will probably take about that long to get back to up nine justices. A 4-4 decision would serve no one since it doesn't set a precedent for lower courts.

  14. 404
    Black Helicopters


    The NSA/FBI are from Goonswarm/Imperium - kinda figures they would be goons - since Dreddit and TEST are on the Good Guys side, they're making good on their threats after getting their asses handed to them in-game.


  15. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    (Prods vulture with truncheon)

    But we'll probably never know.

    Very good comrade. Now pick up that can.

  16. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

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