New US Gov’t Watchdog Website Receives Dozens of Submissions in First Week


Nadia Kayyali, activist and co-founder of the Canary Watch website, told Sputnik they had received 22 new notifications of information request “canaries” since its launch on Monday.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Canary Watch, a website that legally tracks and lists national security data requests on various online companies’ websites, has received 22 new notifications of information request “canaries” since its launch on Monday, an activist and member of one of the co-founders of the site told Sputnik.

“Since Canary Watch launched on Monday, we’ve been sent over 20 new canaries, which we are adding to the site,” an activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Nadia Kayyali told Sputnik on Thursday. “The speed with which we’ve been getting submissions shows what kind of interest there is in canaries as a tool, and we’re really pleased to see it.”

Kayyali said that EFF became involved in the watchdog project, because they thought it would be a “useful educational and informational tool,” to show people what companies have canaries, adding that in the coming weeks the website would soon be publishing more canaries that they know about.

“For those who are interested in a particular company, it will allow them to track that company’s canary much more easily,” Kayyali said. “Instead of requiring people to download individual transparency reports or search for canaries on their own, they can now simply look at the site, and even see changes over time. It’s essentially “one stop shopping.”

Social networks are bound by law to not reveal data requests from government organizations. However, there is no rule that says a network cannot say that they have not received a data request. The watchdog site uses this loophole to monitor 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.

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.

Canary Watch was launched together by Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, NYU’s Technology Law & Policy Clinic, and the Calyx Institute.



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