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let me govern you

21 November Subscribe
Tech news with a HAT perspective 
Issue 101
The battle to govern your online persona begins
The French have thrown down the gauntlet to battle for the right to govern their digital citizens.

The French National Assembly and the French Army Ministry have declared that they won’t be using Google as their default search engines for their devices, in the latest attempt to stave off the dominance of tech giants. Instead, they will be using Qwant

This brings back memories. Around year ago, Irene blogged about how fighting for privacy is a fight for scraps, and that nation states and tech giants are battling for the right to govern us online, with tech giants and awesome-internet-services-no-privacy competing with sovereign states holding the moral high ground of “i-will-protect-you”. And here it is finally. The French starts the first battle with search engines. What next? The British browser? The German maps? The Swiss data vault?

Declarations like these often do not put enough weight on the market as an efficient allocation of resources (Yes, even attention resources) and while we do need protection from our bad habits, the alternative is some regulation working hand in hand with a better market of more choices rather than another provider. That said, declarations like these do push us into thinking of what alternatives could there be, which is no bad thing, really.

The tech giants are gate keepers in so many parts of our digital lives that certainly, we should encourage closer scrutiny on whether the markets are effective to ensure greater choice and competition. However, we must constantly be mindful that underneath the state’s indignance and outrage is their belief that it is they who have the moral right to govern us and that they could want to be the one to set the rules. Territorially perhaps, but the Internet is the Wild West and our digital persona is (relatively) free. Inviting the government to intervene in our choices online may just be swapping one centralised system for another. In territories where we trust our governments, that may be fine. But it does start us on a slippery slope where the outcome may not be what we hope for. Far better to look for decentralised options.

Leila Trilby, Editor-in-chief

The Doghouse

Instagram taking steps against fake followers on its platform (or wants us to feel like it is). Another example of the tightrope social has to walk between upwards-driving engagement and product-killing inauthenticity. 

Facebook had another (!) awful week this week. Rather than tell you about it, here’s a bunch of the stories they tried to shill to TechCrunch to divert them. Read the mud-slinging pitches Facebook’s PR firm sent us 

Big Blue isn’t doing nothing to address all this though. They’re changing their content rewards to penalise material that toes the line, rather than blindly rewarding engagement. It’s something. 

The present


A milestone of the startup world was reached again this week; Benedict Evans published his annual ‘state of tech’ publication. It’s called “The end of the beginning” and it lays out the next generation nicely. 

A promising idea, one that never founds it’s people, is dead (and a good lesson for us all). Android is discontinuing support for Bluetooth Beacons

Should Spotify by a record label?

The future


Following our scathing republication of a repudiation of blockchain a couple of weeks ago, here’s a rare counter-example: HTC is continuing with its experiment of a blockchain phone, the Exodus. It’s not much more than a real stab at blockchain-in-the-mainstream, but even as that it’s a bit of a win. 

The future is computational photography

Comic of the week
 

HAT News

Sooooo busy - the HAT team is supporting partners this week - new partner enrolment forms coming in to play with our sandbox , check it out, and also checkout the bounties on the sandbox - Get paid for more data, apps and tools on our HATs!

Research and Policy team is also gearing up for lots of action in government. 

And Jonathan is of course still blissfully babying away...

Leila Trilby, on double duty

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