Not 100% sure this is the right stack site for this (or if there is one at all) so feel free to lock if it's off topic and I'll go elsewhere :)

This is frequently used in movies where there is an organization trying to deal with a leak of information outside the organization. They will tell the suspected people different stories so that when the info gets leaked they know who leaked it.

I believe it was also somewhat covered in an episode of Big Bang Theory where Sheldon and Amy conducted "social experiments" on the group to see how quickly gossip spread through their network of friends but I don't recall if they ever named the phenomena (or it might not even be the same thing).

  • I've heard something similar being done in the movie industry: sometimes each script will have a slightly different wording and each copy of the movie (when it is played in theaters) will have its own watermark.
    – Laurel
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 16:40
  • single-word-requests and phrase-requests etc are on topic here, provided textual context is included. Please supply a sample sentence / paragraph to start with - something of the form “blah blah ___ blah”. The underscored blank serves as a placeholder for the requested word or phrase. The tag info in the single-word-requests tag provides further guidance on how to word such questions to make sure they are on-topic.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 16:54
  • I'm pretty sure terminology queries such as this one (as opposed to single-word-requests and phrase-requests) can get by as straight-forward queries. The example sentence would do little if anything to improve the clarity of the question. e.g. "For example: '_____' is the term for the process of telling multiple people different information to find a mole." wouldn't add anything to the query. Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 16:58

1 Answer 1


Yes. It's called a Canary Trap. (Wikipedia)

A canary trap is a method for exposing an information leak by giving different versions of a sensitive document to each of several suspects and seeing which version gets leaked. It could be one false statement, to see if sensitive information gets out to other people as well. Special attention is paid to the quality of the prose of the unique language, in the hopes that the suspect will repeat it verbatim in the leak, thereby identifying the version of the document.

  • I assume that goes back to the use of canaries in mines to alert miners to leaking gas (by dying)?
    – Tuffy
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 0:36
  • @Tuffy Maybe. I'd guess it is more related to the use of the term songbird to refer to someone who leaks information ("sings"). Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 14:32

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