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18 April Subscribe
Tech news with a HAT perspective 
Issue 73

“Privacy is not for sale”

Last week, we were all kinda distracted by the Zuckerbourg's performance in the most memified event in tech history. But some major things went down. Telegram was banned in Russia, after the authorities requested a universal key with which to access encrypted messages. A whole lot of drama ensued. 

It all started a while back. Telegram's founder, Pavel Durov, left Russia and the successful company he founded there back in 2014, when he was already being dubbed the Mark Zuckerberg of Russia (…well maybe not so much after this last month's privacy fiascos). In a 2014 interview with the New York Times, he says that Telegram was born out of a realisation that he could not communicate with his family safely, in the light of the various showdowns he had with the government, eventually leading to him leaving the country. (It's also a fab profile of a slightly mysterious, slightly quirky self described 'citizen of the world' who dresses a bit like Neo from The Matrix.)

Now Telegram's privacy-first commitment has got him back into hot water with the authorities in Russia. Telegram lost a lawsuit against the FSB (Federal Security Service) last month, contesting a 2016 antiterrorism ruling granting them backdoor access to encrypted messages. When the requests for universal keys came in again, Telegram refused on the grounds that encryption happens on an individual user level, and a universal key does not exist. The outcome – a ban on Telegram in Russia. Slightly awkward when the whole Kremlin press office use it apparently…

According to Bloomberg, the plot thickens in that Telegram was the biggest competitor to messenger apps owned by Alisher Usmanov ‘one of Russia's richest men and strong Putin loyalist’. Funnily enough, this was the guy who acquired a stake in Durov's original social network, Vkontakte, triggering him to sell his share in 2014. All getting a bit cloak and dagger for us, but we're totally here for Telegram.

The Doghouse

Buzzfeed News reported that Grindr was sharing users' HIV statuses with two external companies, though they've now stopped using app optimisation services Apptimize and Localytics. Grindr is designed to be a safe space for the gay community, and has played a role in encouraging transparency and positivity in the conversation around HIV status. But sharing users' set HIV status, as well as their 'last tested' information with third parties, linked to personally identifiable information, is exactly the kind of oversight that can actually put users at risk.

Be Cautious

'Face Template' sounds pretty creepy, and a little mysterious. 'DeepFace' sounds even weirder. But these are both projects Facebook has been working on over the past few years. Its 'suggested tag' feature involved building a user a face template with which to match it to suggested images uploaded by friends. All this biometric data has become the subject of a Chicago class action suit against Facebook, claiming that the collection and use of this data violates the Biometric Information Privacy Act (2008). Facebook says they're in the clear, but it's open to interpretation whether explaining the feature and telling users how to turn it off satisfies the Act's requirement for 'explicit consent'. 

Geek Out

The latest AI-themed Google browser game is on word association, asking you to type words associated with highlighted words in a list. The AI then reorders the list, creating an arcade style game (there's also a slower, Tetris style version). Warning: it's addictive. The game links to further information on how the process works, for all you machine learning nuts out there

Leila Trilby, Editor-in-chief
HAT News

Spotify Spotify Spotify!

🔊 You can now get your Spotify data in your HAT! The latest version of the HAT Web App lets you set up your Spotify plug, and see it in your feed alongside all the other data in your HAT. Spotify will also be available in the next HAT iOS App update (v.1.2) coming v. v. soon. Irene has blogged about the process of getting access to Spotify data over on her Medium. It's a weird little story, but we got there in the end, with a little help from a mysterious developer acting as a data agent... 

What do we do with all those zetabytes?

We've written up a transcript of Irene's interview on Canadian national radio. Give her discussion with Anna Marie Tremonti, on her breakfast news show, 'The Current', a read: how decentralised data ownership could better distribute power on the Internet.

Keep an eye out 😉 

We've got a few exciting announcements to make following last week's sprint – some new additions to the team, and a little news – so watch this space… or follow us on Twitter if you can't wait until next MadHATTERs.

Jonathan Holtby, Community Manager

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