Has the US forced Reddit to secretly hand over user data?

Disappearance of "warrant canary" seen as tacit admission of government data request

Reddit users may no longer be safe from government spying.

The message forum site has removed a "warrant canary" from its latest transparency report, suggesting it has now received at least one classified request for user data.

National security letters and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requests come to companies in secret requests for users' information, and the nature of these requests is such that companies are forbidden from even saying they have received them.

The "warrant canary"

Reddit got around that last year by including a "warrant canary" for its Transparency Report 2014, that read: "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. If we ever receive such a request, we would seek to let the public know it existed."

The idea works as a tacit admission, if the statement ever disappeared from future reports, that Reddit had received such a request.

After releasing its Transparency Report 2015 yesterday, one user spotted that the statement was no longer included.

This led Reddit admin Spez to say: "Even with the canaries, we're treading a fine line. The whole thing is icky, which is why we joined Twitter in pushing back."

Twitter is suing the US Department of Justice for a violation of free speech in an ongoing court case, after the department prevented the tech giant from revealing how many secret requests for user data it receives.

Reddit's apparent admission comes after data protection campaigner Max Schrems sued Facebook over allegedly transferring EU citizens' data to the NSA, something Facebook denied.

The court case eventually led to the European Court of Justice scrapping the Safe Harbour agreement in October 2015, saying it could not be relied upon to protect EU data transferred to the US. 

A replacement agreement dubbed Privacy Shield is currently being considered by various parts of the EU.

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