riseup.net is a popular service provider among privacy and activist circles tweeted an obscure reference about birds which likely refers to their warrant canary that hasn’t been renewed since August.
— riseup.net (@riseupnet) November 11, 2016
I have looked through their whole twitter media history and they never posted pictures of birds with quotes difficult to interpret.
What is a canary? Quote:
A mechanism to test for unsafe conditions, originating from the use of canaries in coal mines to detect poisonous gases or cave-ins. If the canary died, it was time to get out of the mine. More recently, the term has been used by some online service providers to refer to an affirmative statement, updated regularly, that the provider has not been subjected to certain legal processes. If the statement is not updated in a timely fashion, users may infer that the canary statement may no longer be true.
This was followed by a confusing update which could be read as reassurance. Also it could be interpreted as being threatened with incarceration and being forced to keep the site up and a reminder to archive stuff immediately because of impending shutdown.
— riseup.net (@riseupnet) November 21, 2016
Compared with past similar concerns where riseup staff were prompt and direct about renewing their canary. No clear response was given so its logical to conclude that the servers may not be under their control any longer.
— flanvel (@flanvel) August 16, 2016
— Whonix (@Whonix) November 24, 2016
Why it matters?
While the threats of using a conventional email providers are well understood and apply regardless of who operates the service, taking over a server gives surveillance the power to actively compromise users machines en mass or to target select individuals.
For alternatives, see our wiki page about e-mail.