When Apple published its first Transparency Report on government activity in late 2013, the document contained an important footnote that stated:
“Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us.”
Writer and cyber-activist Cory Doctorow at the time recognized that language as a so-called “warrant canary,” which Apple was using to thwart the secrecy imposed by the Patriot Act.
Warrant canaries are a tool used by companies and publishers to signify to their users that, so far, they have not been subject to a given type of law enforcement request such as a secret subpoena. If the canary disappears, then it is likely the situation has changed — and the company has been subject to such request.
Now, Apple’s warrant canary has disappeared.