The departure of both WhatsApp founders from Facebook, who bought their chat app in 2014 for $19.3 billion, had to do with user rights, and in a broader view, digital rights. Jan Koum left earlier this year over disagreements with Facebook, which attempted to use users’ personal data and weaken the app’s encryption, according to the Washington Post.
A few months earlier, in late 2017, Brian Acton announced leaving Whatsapp to form a new foundation. In early 2018 Acton and Moxie Marlinspike, developer of the Signal Protocol and the Signal app, announced the Signal Foundation, which Acton gave $50 milllion to establish and will executive chairman, to replace Marlinspike’s Open Whisper Systems non-profit as the developer of the privacy-oriented chat app and protocol, as well as other privacy-oriented tools.
But as Facebook got embroiled in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which drew criticism and parliamentary investigations on both sides of the Atlantic, and as the new GDPR rules are making waves around the world, it seems Facebook merely felt a bump on the road and keeps on driving. The Norwegian Data Protection Authority, Datatilsynet, and the the Norwegian Consumer Agency, Forbrukertilsyne, recently issued a harshly titled report, DECEIVED BY DESIGN - How tech companies use dark patterns to discourage us from exercising our rights to privacy. The report shows how Facebook, along with Google and Microsoft, are using product design to manipulate their users into sharing more and more information about themselves, which will be monetized and probably abused. In this case, several consumer and privacy groups in Europe and the US are asking the European data protection authorities to investigate whether the massive datatech companies are breaking the law.
In this episode of Lex Cybernetica, we discuss digital rights and digital activism with Northwestern University’s Dr. Efrat Daskal, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy Prof. Joe Cannataci, ARTICLE 19’s Paula Martins, and Lex Cybernetica’s host, Ido Kenan.
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