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20 February Subscribe
Tech news with a HAT perspective 
Issue 75

What's up with WhatsApp? 

We really REALLY wish this wasn't another piece about Facebook. We wish we didn't have to say the F-word again. Really we do. But they just can't keep themselves out of the news for one goddamn week. 

WhatsApp co-founder and CEO, Jan Koum, is sashaying away from Facebook (who acquired WhatsApp for $19bn in 2014) to work on solo projects. By that, he means, in his own words: "collecting rare air-cooled Porsches and playing ultimate frisbee", which, reading between the lines clearly means: So long, you data demons.

Well, potentially. Koum has based his career and the company he founded on encryption, privacy, and a principal that WhatsApp would know "as little about you as possible". In an origin story that isn't a million miles away from that of Pavel Durov's Telegram, which we covered the other week, an upbringing in the Soviet Union fed into Koum's commitment to privacy of communications and free speech. Now, it's strongly hinted that this commitment has become impossible at Facebook.

Facebook didn't dispute the claim that his departure was due to objections around the use of user data, but it's also said the Koum made his decision to leave before the scandal hit. His co-founder, Brian Acton, also left Facebook in November. Still, Koum's exit is the most high-profile act of objection to Facebook's actions we've seen yet – he's the only Facebook executive besides Sheryl Sandberg and Zuckerberg himself to be on the board of directors.

Signal, the communications service that Acton went on to lead, is an interesting one to check out, while we're all out there shopping for diversification in our social media. It's a non-profit foundation, setting themselves up as the most trusted communications experience on the planet. Here's Reddit on how it stacks up against Telegram.

Be Cautious

Workers in a factory in Hangzhou are wearing helmets that read their brain activity, gathering data on their emotional state. Allegedly, this will help their supervisors shift their workload around to adjust it according to their mental stability. They claim that this little trick has saved the company $300 million over the past 4 years. Yes, yes... That sounds great! Only that it isn’t. There are no safeguards in place which prevents the Chinese government from taking this data from companies. China also does not allow the formation of independent trade unions to potentially veto against the use of the employees' mental health data. Sounds like a grim future? They are topping it off with an AI CCTV camera in Shenzhen, identifying jaywalkers and sending them fines via WeChat. Black Mirror really doesn't seem that far away anymore…

Impress your Friends

You have probably heard of the new Spectacles coming out last week. Slimmer, more stylish, waterproof, no yellow circle indicating the camera (Is that good or bad?) and prescription options. As an owner of V1 Snapchat glasses, they have almost pinpointed all pain points I could think of. Pretty big step up from one version to the other. The easier handling might result in not having more than half of the users leave the Spectacles in their drawers after the first months. But there is one big pain point they missed: It is only working in collaboration with the not-so-slowly fading Snapchat app. If Snap Inc wants to establish itself as a camera company, they might have to rethink and consider broadening their vision. 

Big Corps, Good Deeds

Lacoste - Endangered SpeciesWe are normally quite critical of big corporations (with good reason lo and behold...) But we were in awe of this quite simple but impactful campaign from Lacoste. They changed their well known crocodile logo into animals on the endangered species list and the proceeds went to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Cool move Lacoste!

 Tweet of the Week

Tweet of the week

Leila Trilby, Editor-in-chief

HAT News

A warm welcome to Theresa Rabing! The newest member of the HATDeX team, and MadHATTERs' incoming managing editor. She'll be bringing you MadHATTERs from both Hamburg and London, and we're super excited to have her on board! Welcome!

A big congrats to our Class of '17 Startups tearing it up on Seedrs. Both GoodLoop and Feral Horses have had amazing rounds, both smashing their targets. We can't wait to see what's next from these guys, who're doing great work in the art and adtech worlds. I blogged about the current icky state of digital advertising, and what GoodLoop are doing about it, just before their round closed last week. Feral Horses' round is still open if you want to check them out.

Save the date. Did we mention we're having a party? It's a garden party, you know, in the sun, in the summer, and we'd love to see you there. Drop us an email if you're interested in joining us in July ☀️🥂🍦 

Jonathan Holtby, Community Manager

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