Silent Circle, the company best known for the secure Blackphone smartphone series, just removed its warrant canary — but the company says it was a business decision, and not because it has been served with a national security letter or warrant.
Most national security letters or surveillance warrants issued by the federal government come with a gag order that says the recipient cannot disclose the contents of the letter or its existence. A warrant canary is a popular method of getting around that: A company posts a message alerting its users that it has not received any warrants from the government — but if the message is removed or has not been updated, that means user data has been compromised and the company has a gag order placed on it.
Warrant canaries have been a popular tool used by many companies ever since the National Security Agency leaks by Edward Snowden in 2013. So naturally, when someone tipped off TechCrunch that Silent Circle quietly removed its warrant canary, it could be assumed that the company had received a national security letter or a warrant requesting user data from the government. Nope, the company says it is a “business decision.”
“We have not received a warrant for user data,” Silent Circle’s General Counsel Matt Neiderman told TechCrunch. “As part of our focus on delivering enterprise software platform, we discontinued our warrant canary some time ago. The decision was a business decision and not related to any warrant for user data, which we have not received.”
It’s not the first time the company has said it hasn’t received a request for user data — last year, Silent Circle said it forgot to add in a statement that it did not receive a national security letter or warrant in its warrant canary, but the company said it was simply an error and updated the canary to include it.
We have reached out to Silent Circle to see if they have received any type of warrant, and to get some additional comment on the situation. In this day and age where attacks on privacy get the spotlight, a warrant canary is a company’s way of communicating with its users. An encrypted communications firm removing its canary as a “business decision” is certainly strange, and we will update this post if we glean any new information.