Using the web for social good

7 min readJuly 20th, 2020

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting down with Laura Kalbag from the Small Technology Foundation to discuss how we can use the web for social good. It was a really great chat, during which I wanted to focus on how we can be more aware of our rights online, as well as how we can use that knowledge to protect and control our privacy. I especially wanted to talk about how technology is being used against us during protests, and how track and trace solutions surrounding COVID-19 may not be all they cracked up to be.

This event was the first in a series of live-streamed Lectures from Hey! under Hey! Live. Due to the ongoing pandemic, we’re working hard to make our events as accessible as possible in an online format. It was also the first time we used our new Slack workspace to field audience questions and socialise with the community at a time where it’s not safe to do so in-person.

If you like the work that Small Technology Foundation are doing, take a look at becoming a patron.

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Stream notes

  • 13:46 - Advertising networks and the invasion of privacy
  • 15:00 - Venture capital in start-up culture
  • 17:00 - Being part of the big social experiment ("lab rats")
  • 17:22 - What are our rights when using social platforms?
  • 18:26 - Our reliance on online connections
  • 19:26 - High profile bans from Twitter
  • 20:38 - Real name policy on social networks (and the cost of asking people to identify themselves)
  • 21:50 - How can I make better decisions about what platforms I use?
  • 24:40 - GDPR and it's wider impact on us
  • 26:40 - Talk to real people instead of relying on the data
  • 27:00 - Netlify self hosting over other products and hosting solutions
  • 28:55 - Alternative solutions (and using switching.software to find alternatives)
  • 29:50 - What are the options when coming off a platform?
  • 30:54 - Taking the power away from the platforms
  • 34:00 - Right to be forgotten (Clearview AI)
  • 35:00 - The use of Signal for private conversations
  • 37:00 - The importance of privacy-respecting tools not being limited to developers
  • 38:25 - Sustainable funding models for companies
  • 41:13 - How do you tell clients to avoid certain services?
  • 42:40 - Is it the responsibility of the developers to raise these topics with clients?
  • 43:50 - Browser fingerprinting
  • 44:40 - The obsession of single sign-on
  • 45:50 - The dangers of CAPTCHA
  • 46:50 - COVID track and trace solutions, and why they’re not hitting the mark
  • 47:45 - “Throw enough technology at a problem it will probably solve it”
  • 49:30 - Why Laura left the UK
  • 52:00 - Philadelphia protester being identified online and charged
  • 52:00 - Disproportionate tracking of minorities and the importance of building anti-racist technology
  • 52:00 - Why you should think twice about using Uber to go to a protest
  • 54:40 - Importance of using apps that don’t use your location for messaging when communicating about protests
  • 56:30 - Be a good ally by donating your tech skills
  • 57:16 - Smart cities and the data they’re collecting
  • 58:55 - Peer to peer
  • 1:00:00 - Free wifi points in cities (if you’re not paying for it, you are the product)

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