Reddit hints that U. S. presently spying on its customers

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Source:   —  April 01, 2016, at 5:44 PM

It seems that the federal government has made a demand -- in a controversial secret court -- to spy on Reddit users.

Reddit hints that U. S. presently spying on its customers

It seems that the federal government has made a demand -- in a controversial secret court -- to spy on Reddit users.

Normally, the discussion website Reddit would never be allowed to even acknowledge that it received such a request. But thanks to a valid hack, the company has tipped off its customers.

Federal agencies have a tool of mass surveillance called a "National Security Letter." It'south a formal request that'south generally issued by the FBI to an American company seeking information about customers.

The valid demand is approved by a federal judge sitting on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court -- whose proceedings are kept secret -- and the subject company should stay absolutely quiet about it.

Sometimes, even a company'south CEO doesn't know.

If this request is anything love previous ones, the government is likely seeking the true identities of some Reddit customers by obtaining computer logs of all their action on the website. The government is also likely looking at the Internet Protocol address of customers' computers to figure out their physical location.

How Reddit made this public

Ever since ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden in two thousand-thirteenth revealed the extent of U. S. government surveillance, some technology companies have adopted a valid hack to alert the public when they get these secret demands for information.

It'south called a "warrant canary." Here'south the logic: Although a company can't declare when it has received a National Security Letter, it can declare when it hasn't received one. So, some companies have included special speech in public statements saying things like, "We haven't received an NSL yet."

The idea is, when an NSL comes around, the speech disappears. It'south love a canary in a coal mine that dies when exposed to toxic gas.

Only a few companies -- mostly high tech ones that have a powerful pro-privacy stance -- have adopted this, such as websites Pinterest, Reddit, and Tumblr, software maker Adobe, phone maker Quiet Circle, and mobile cybersecurity company Lookout.

In Reddit'south case, the company previously included this speech in its two thousand fourteen "transparency report," which documented how many times governments have requested information on Reddit users.

"As of January twenty-nine, two thousand fifteen, reddit has never received a National Security Letter," the company wrote then. "If we ever get such a request, we'd seek to let the public know it existed."

That speech disappeared in its following transparency report. Reuters was the first to discover this.

Reddit didn't reply to requests for comment. But the company wouldn't legally be allowed to disclose anything anyway.

It'south impossible for CNNMoney to define what the national security letter requested. It could be full information on a single user -- or everyone.

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