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Eating the Crappy Stuff

19 February Subscribe
Tech news, HAT-slanted 
Issue 123

This woman's on fire

Irene and Gus have been hunting giants.

Three weeks ago, Facebook issued a gentle summons to our illustrious band of misfits (Jonathan literally has baby sick on him right now - ed) to explain ourselves. We brandished our technical documentation and Ts & Cs and so explained.

“We knew, sooner or later, we will have to answer to the tech platforms out there, as they may see it as a loss of control, since data went from them to their users to be reused and reshared freely, without being answerable to them,” she wrote Friday last. But that’s our side of the story - the behemoths have a pretty good reason to want everything answerable to them - society’s demanding it. I’m sure HAT and our ilk look like little but a monstrous liability at the moment.

When we had our interview with Facebook compliance, it would have been very easy for them to shut their ears and ignore arguments in favour of citizen ownership. It might have been easier for us too - there’s a scene in the West Wing (yes, yes, I’m old) where the Press Secretary of the White House declares to the Chief of Staff that they need “a raving, frothing-at-the-mouth, kill us just to watch us die” -type enemy, because that’s the enemy people will rally to topple.

“While HAT owners may not answerable to FB,” continues Irene, “we (the HATDeX Platform) being the technological enabler, are of course answerable to FB. We know our model is unconventional, but our position has always been that this is good for all as HAT owners that claim their FB data would also want to generate data on FB, which is far better than #deletefacebook and FB is also seen doing the right thing in giving their users their data back. Still, enabling a mass reuse and re-share of FB data by their own users could be seen as a threat.”

“The right for HAT owners to claim their data is a fundamental right that the HATDeX platform upholds, through enabling a “data plug”, an “API-to-API” service pulling data from an Internet application (like FB), and pushing it into HATs, on the owner’s request. The platform has several data plugs, and awaiting FCA approval for banking data plugs as well.” Irene says she was prepared to go to court on behalf of our HAT owners if they shut down the APIs.

Of course Facebook does not froth at the mouth. “We were almost compliant with their policy,” they said, “except one application on our platform that enabled a HAT owner to sell his/her data for cash. They explained patiently that after Cambridge Analytica, they are called to a higher standard and the fact that HAT owners could do that was unacceptable to them.” They were very polite. Even apologetic.

Irene says they said that “they didn’t want to get in the way of our “business model” (a nice way of not validating our model of data ownership but acknowledging it). They iterated that they will not put any restrictions on us that they do not put on themselves ie FB doesn’t “sell” their users data for cash now, and we shouldn’t enable HAT owners to do so either.”

It is a good deal.

Irene writes that “yes, the data does belong to the HAT owner and he should be free to use it any way he chooses including selling it but I can see why the technology that aids in that sale may be complicit. It’s like saying your body is yours and you should have the right to do with it how you please which means no one can stop you from selling your organs but the mall or the broker that facilitates the sale would be irresponsible and immoral. Applied to the selling of FB data, it has clearly been shown that such data could result in world changing events such as influencing elections etc. so facilitating an overt selling of the data would certainly border on irresponsibility and/or immorality.”

This is a company with house-on-fire issues to wrestle with, executing a compliance policy at a scale of millions of apps, and they treated our fledgling innovation with patience and respect. I’m not going to stop writing about them with glee in my quill-stroke, but (to borrow Irene’s words) “for their treatment of HAT and the HATDeX Platform at least, I am content.” 

Sante, friends.

Yours in HAT,

Leila Trilby, Editor-in-chief

The present

Our experience with Facebook is perhaps a modicum explained by the expertise they have/are developing in Washington. We’re likely feeling the gentle eddies from a torrent that has origins in DC. The Information wrote a great editorial last week telling the story of Jack Valenti and violence on cable. From the piece: “As big tech is assailed from all sides by criticism over its privacy practices, impact on the labor force and sheer power, divisions within the industry are hobbling its ability to respond. Apple chief Tim Cook never misses an opportunity to criticize Facebook and Google over their reliance on consumer data. Oracle is behind the scenes, trying to undermine Google and Amazon. Facebook, in meetings with congressional staffers, blames everyone else—by noting the flaws in other companies’ privacy policies, according to people with knowledge of its lobbying efforts. The internecine battles are a source of comfort for those in Congress pushing for more industry oversight. “The view on Capitol Hill is that the industry’s advocacy is disjointed,” said one congressional staffer, adding “If they were more coordinated, they would escape a lot of this well-deserved scrutiny.” Interesting parallels.

Also, Huawei will be allowed into the UK for 5G

Yayyyyy Snapchat is growing again.

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, met with President Trump last week, so I’m sure social media is sane and healthy again.

Did you know that police in Massachussetts used to be able to access real-time location data from your cell phone? They can’t anymore.

The doghouse

Uhhhhhh wtf?! “When you visit this page on Chrome for mobile and scroll a little way, the page is able to display itself as - and worse, the page is able to jail you in this fake browser!” It’s called “The Inception Bar.

Facebook’s latest user privacy violation has hooked the NY State Attorney General, who will be pursuing a case against them. “Facebook has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for consumer information while at the same time profiting from mining that data.”

HAT News

Symposia. We're hanging out in Cambs to talk about being a Digital Person today.

Grilled Meat. Wilkommen auf MasterCard, IDEO, and Pangaea to the HAT Garage for lunch this week. May you drink deeply of the decentralised web.


Jonathan Holtby, HAT Community Manager

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