VPN Warrant Canaries – Are They Any Good?

The governments all over the world have been using the internet as a tool to collect information about its citizens. While they say it’s for security purposes, it’s a breach of our rights. Ever since Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA spies on people, the public consciousness of internet security has magnified immensely. This is due to the fact that many governments, including the US, have legal statutes in place to compel companies to disclose the personal information of users. So the need arises for warrant canaries.

VPN Warrant Canaries – Are They Any Good?

VPN Warrant Canaries – Are They Any Good?

What is a Warrant Canary?

A warrant canary is a legal declaration by a company that it has not received any secret subpoenas by the government to disclose the private information of its clients and thereby compromise their online security. These declarations are frequently updated and if you are a privacy-conscious person, you ought to keep track of the warrant canaries of your ISP and VPN providers. If your VPN provider has a warrant canary on their website, it means they haven’t received any warrants from the government to reveal their clients’ information.

What are the Benefits of a Warrant Canary?

Companies who are dedicated to providing total privacy to their clients can often land in problems with the authorities because of their policies. On the premise that the services of these companies might be used by persons looking to subvert the government authority or compromise national security, governments can issue secret subpoenas to them demanding that they disclose any and all information on their clients without exception.

These subpoenas can be targeted to one particular user account or be more generalized depending upon the scope of the online investigation being conducted by the government. In this scenario, the company is forced to hand over all the information being asked for and has no way of informing its users that their privacy has been compromised. This is because the subpoena will explicitly state that the company must not disclose any such information.

So the only way, although indirect, for companies to inform their clients of having received any such subpoenas is through warrant canary. For the privacy conscious customer, warrant canaries are a lifesaver and can prevent a lot of difficulties later on. Here’s how warrant canaries can be helpful to you:

At the very basic level, warrant canaries show that the company you are looking to use is at least concerned about your privacy. Companies that do not have a warrant canary might well be feeding information to the government about clients or engaging in some other breach of privacy.

Aside from this, companies also use warrant canaries to denote their reliability as organizations which respect personal space and want their clients to know that their privacy will not be at stake if they start using their services. So if you see a regularly updated warrant canary, then you can assume that the company is free from any legal liability to provide the government with personal information.

The most important service rendered by warrant canaries is that of indirect warning. If a warrant canary has not been updated recently or is not updated frequently, then it is safe to assume that the company might (and probably will) be engaged in providing information to government authorities. Also, some companies remove warrant canaries from their websites once they get a warrant.

Why Should You Look Out For Warrant Canaries?

Warrant canaries are very useful for informing the people about the integrity of a company’s operations. However, most people are either not aware that they exist or simply don’t care. This is a very dangerous attitude and can lead to serious compromises in personal security. Many major companies are engaged in the online tracking of their user activities as well as their preferences. This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg.

When a company receives a subpoena, they are legally compelled to provide the information being asked for by the government. Otherwise, they face legal repercussions which might even include jail time. Naturally, most companies will like to avoid this situation and are often willing to comply with any and all legal requirements issued by governments. But there are companies who find a way to inform their clients of any such order before they are legally gagged and prevented from doing so.

Checking if your ISP has a warrant canary is one of the first steps you need to take to ensure your internet security. While in no way a complete measure against government spying, this at least shows that the company is responsibly concerned about your privacy and personal data. Many VPN service providers also use warrant canaries to inform people of the legal status of their secure internet services. For someone who does not want to be a pawn in the hands of the powers that be, warrant canaries are might important indeed.     

VPN Warrant Canaries – In Conclusion

Warrant Canaries are like a guide sign indicating there is danger ahead. As such, it can be of much help to those who don’t want to have their security compromised. This is even more relevant to you if you are privacy-conscious or are engaged in dealings that go against the interests of the government authorities like an investigation into government scams or human rights abuse or any other aspect. If you want to remain anonymous online and protect your information from prying eyes, being vigilant is the only way and warrant canaries constitute your first line of defense.   

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