Launching today: Canarywatch

by Rebekah Heacock Jones

Canary LogoThe Electronic Frontier Foundation announced today that it has partnered with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, New York University’s Technology Law & Policy Clinic, and the Calyx Institute to launch Canarywatch, which monitors changes to known warrant canaries. Canarywatch maintains a list of warrant canaries on its site, tracks changes to or disappearances of these canaries, and encourages submissions of additional warrant canaries not yet listed. From the official announcement:

"Warrant canary" is a colloquial term for a regularly published statement that an internet service provider (ISP) has not received legal process that it would be prohibited from saying it had received, such as a national security letter. The term "warrant canary" is a reference to the canaries used to provide warnings in coal mines, which would become sick from carbon monoxide poisoning before the miners would—warning of the otherwise invisible danger. Just like canaries in a coal mine, the canaries on web pages “die” when they are exposed to something toxic—like a secret FISA court order.

...But if you’re not paying attention to a specific canary, you may never know when it changes. Plenty of providers don’t have warrant canaries. Those that do may not make them obvious. And when warrant canaries do change, it’s not always immediately obvious what that change means.

...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.

For more information, see the official announcement, the site's About section, or the FAQ.