Data Sloshing

Grindr shared HIV status of users with 3rd parties; CfA launches community fellowship pilot; and more.


  • Mozilla announced the 14 tech-for-good projects receiving a total of $280,000 in grants from the organization’s gigabit initiative.

  • Open data updates: A new law requires Kansas law enforcement to announce on a public website when they seize property believed to be connected to a crime, and whether criminal charges were eventually filed, Jonathan Shorman reports for The Kansas City Star. The practice of asset forfeiture has been criticized for being misused as a cash cow for police departments across the country, which are often allowed to spend the proceeds of the seizures without oversight or accountability.

  • The Congressional Research Service will begin publishing their reports on a public website, after years of secrecy and inexplicable withholding, Joe Mullin reports for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

  • David Yanofsky’s quest to access two government databases on foreign visitors to the U.S. without paying $174,000 is nearly at an end, he writes for Quartz. “The government missed administrative and court deadlines, and even changed its reason for denying my request,” Yanofsky reports. “We’ve learned that there are few, if any, buyers of the data I’m seeking, yet staffers of the office who maintain the data say it generates revenue essential to their operation, and that governments officials couldn’t understand why a media company would want it. In that time, three more years of data have also been released, with the most recent year’s priced at $16,770.”

  • A BuzzFeed investigation by Azeen Ghorayshi and Sri Ray revealed that Grindr was sharing its users’ HIV status with two other companies, in addition to their GPS data, phone ID, and email address. Although the company has said it would stop following the publication of BuzzFeed’s article, it remains to be seen whether the app can regain its users’ trust.

  • Life in Facebookistan: Among many, many other data points, journalists, researchers, and other curious folk found that never-published and deleted videos are among the things that the social media company has hoarded in their personal data files, Madison Malone Kircher reports for Select/All.

  • “Facebook is a symptom, not a cause of our problems,” Evgeny Morozov writes in The Guardian. “In the long run, blaming its corporate culture is likely to prove as futile as blaming ourselves. Thus, instead of debating whether to send Zuckerberg into the corporate equivalent of exile, we should do our best to understand how to reorganize the digital economy to benefit citizens—and not just a handful of multibillion-dollar firms that view their users as passive consumers with no political or economic ideas or aspirations of their own.”

  • Justin Hendrix and David Carroll imagine the next Cambridge Analytica, and write in the MIT Technology Review that the more connected we become, the more power and influence that organization will have. “In other words, the machines will know us better tomorrow than they do today,” they write. “They will certainly have the data. While a General Data Protection Regulation is about to take effect in the European Union, the U.S. is headed in the opposite direction. Facebook may have clamped down on access to its data, but there is more information about citizens on the market than ever before. Recently, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission allowed internet service providers to sell data on your web browsing behavior. That’s just one example of what will be available through legitimate means, not to mention all the data sloshing around thanks to hacks and misuse.”

  • Attention civic techies: Code for America is looking for applicants for its Community Fellowship Pilot, in which Brigade members will work will local governments to improve services for vulnerable people in their cities. Learn more here.

  • Your moment of buzzzzzzzen.