Canary Watch Figures Out NSA, FBI Data Requests to Social Networks

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According to the law, social networks are prohibited from revealing requests from security agencies. The Canary Watch website found a loophole: it monitors the stream of "no requests" and if there is a pause, then the website indicates that a social network has been contacted by a security body.

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Canary Watch website legally tracks and lists national security data requests, or, more exactly, their absence, to a number of social networks by US government agencies such as the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the service states on its website.

Social networks are bound by law to not reveal data requests from government organizations. But there is no rule stating that a network cannot say that they have not received a data request. In a web-based sleight-of-hand, Canary Watch uses this loophole to monitor a steady stream of postings by social networks indicating they have not received any such data request. If there is a pause in the regularity of these "no request" postings, Canary Watch gets an instant indication that a social network has been contacted by a government organization to provide information.

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Canary Watch can track social networks like Reddit, Pinterest and Tumblr. Social networks generally prefer to be perceived as transparent but often cannot because of their legal obligation to answer government data requests, the website explains. By using this loophole the networks are able to show that they are doing everything possible to show transparency in their actions.

The service was launched by a group of non-profit organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, NYU's Technology Law & Policy Clinic, and the Calyx Institute.

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