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.”
Yours in HAT,