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Houseparty Denies Viral Hacking Rumors, Offers $1M Bounty for Proof of Smear Campaign

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  • Users of the group video chat service Houseparty have complained that their online accounts like Instagram, Netflix, Spotify, and even bank accounts were hacked after downloading the app. 
  • Houseparty said it found no evidence to suggest a link between its app and the hacking of unrelated accounts. 
  • The app also believes the rumors are part of a “commercial smear campaign” against it and are offering a $1 million dollar bounty for evidence that proves this. 
  • Forbes enlisted a cybersecurity expert who found no obvious dangers with the app, but damage to Houseparty’s reputation may have already been done as people continue to urge others to delete it.

Hacking Accusations Surface 

Houseparty is now the latest group video-chatting app to come under fire over privacy concerns, but the app is fighting back, aggressively denying recent data breach rumors. 

People forced indoors all over the world during the coronavirus pandemic have been turning to video-chatting apps over the last few weeks, not only for school and business meetings but also for virtual gatherings with friends and family. 

With apps like Zoom facing increased criticism over data sharing policies, meeting crashers, and other issues, many have instead opted to download its “fun” competitor, Houseparty, which features in-app group games like Heads Up!, QuickDraw!, and Trivia. 

But over the last few days, Houseparty users have been complaining on social media that their non-related accounts were compromised, including Instagram, Netflix, Spotify, and online-banking accounts, among others.

Many have suggested that the Epic Games owned app is in some way the reason for this.

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Houseparty Denies Rumors, Offers $1M Bounty

On Monday, an Epic Games spokesperson issued a statement saying, “We’ve found no evidence to suggest a link between Houseparty and the compromises of other unrelated accounts.” 

“As a general rule, we suggest all users choose strong passwords when creating online accounts on any platform,” it added. 

The company also took to Twitter to assure users that its “service is secure, has never been compromised, and doesn’t collect passwords for other sites.”

Later that same evening, the app launched more aggressive measures to shut down the hacking rumors, saying, “We are investigating indications that the recent hacking rumors were spread by a paid commercial smear campaign to harm Houseparty.”

The company even said it was offering a $1 million dollar bounty “for the first individual to provide proof of such a campaign.”  

Is Houseparty Safe? 

So is the app actually safe to use? Well, no app can be guaranteed 100% secure, but it seems like as of now, there are no dangerous flaws that have been found. Forbes released a report examining the app and enlisted cybersecurity and privacy researcher Lukas Stefanko to take a look at the Android version of it. Stefanko ultimately determined that there was nothing of concern. 

“I analyzed the app’s permissions usage and since the app provides video chats with your friends it is logical that requested permissions are necessary. I haven’t found any shady misusing of them by the app,” said Stefanko said. “The app doesn’t provide a lot of in-app options and settings, which creates less scenarios for exploiting security issues.”

From a privacy perspective, the Forbes report said there is one obvious issue that some might want to note before downloading. That is that the app’s games are open to any of your friends and any of your friends’ friends unless you lock the “room” where you’re playing. 

So essentially if you don’t lock rooms down, there’s a chance people you don’t know will invade your game. However, the report noted that there is an easy fix for this issue: simply hitting the padlock button at the bottom of the screen.

As far as its privacy policy, the report again said there was nothing outrageous there as well. They did say that the most concerning language in the policy says that the app can collect “anonymized and aggregated information, such as de-identified demographic information” and “de-identified location information.” The issue here is that even when location data is “de-identified,” it’s still possible to find out who the person is by linking it with other information.  

And while the app collects contacts so you can find friends to play with, the company promises that it “will never share your phone number or the phone numbers of third parties in your contacts with anyone else.”

Forbes noted that there is the standard warning that user data can be used for more targeted advertising and if you’re concerned enough about that, they provided specific steps you can take to boost privacy and still use the app. 

Thomas Brewster, the Security, surveillance and privacy reporter who wrote the Forbes report, later tweeted that he had reached out to a few different researchers for their opinion. They too had not found any notable security issues with Houseparty.

So as of now, it seems like the app is fine to use, but some don’t seem too convinced. The damage to Houseparty’s reputation may already be done as social media users continue to urge one another to delete the app altogether. However, we’ll all have to wait and see if Houseparty’s interesting efforts to debunk the rumor pay off in the future. 

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Engadget) (BBC)

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Jodie Sweetin Releases Statement After Getting Pushed By Officers at Pro-Choice Protest: “This Will Not Deter Us”

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“Love everyone out there in the streets fighting for what’s right,” she wrote on Instagram.


Actress Pushed at Protest

After viral footage showed Jodie Sweetin getting pushed to the ground by officers with the Los Angeles Police Department while attending a pro-choice protest, the “Full House” actress said demonstraters “will continue fighting” for their rights. 

Sweetin was attending a protest off the 101 freeway on Saturday following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Photojournalist Mike Ade, who captured the video, said the actress was “trying to lead a group of peaceful protestors away from the freeway” when officers pushed her. Sweetin was standing on a curb when she was pushed and fell down on the cement road. Ade wrote that she was “fortunately…okay.”

Ade shared a handful of other videos depicting officers using similar tactics on other protesters. As these videos started circulating online, many became outraged by the LAPD’s response to the protests.

Sweetin Addresses Incident

Following the incident, Sweetin released a statement where she said the fight against the court’s decision is not over. 

“I’m extremely proud of the hundreds of people who showed up yesterday to exercise their First Amendment rights and take immediate action to peacefully protest the giant injustices that have been delivered from our Supreme Court,” Sweetin said. “Our activism will continue until our voices are heard and action is taken. This will not deter us, we will continue fighting for our rights. We are not free until ALL of us are free.”

Sweetin also shared footage of the incident and other clips of officers clashing with protesters on her Instagram story. She cheered protesters in a comment on a video of the push shared by a social justice group called The Progressivists.

“Love everyone out there in the streets fighting for what’s right,” she wrote.

According to a statement obtained by Deadline, the LAPD is looking into the matter. 

“The LAPD is aware of a video clip of a woman being pushed to the ground by officers not allowing the group to enter on foot and overtake the 101 freeway,” the statement said. “The force used will be evaluated against the LAPD’s policy and procedure.”

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (Rolling Stone) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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Dave Chappelle Decides Against Having Former High School’s Theater Named After Him

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“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me,” the comedian reportedly said.


Theater Named Announced

Comedian Dave Chappelle opted on Monday to not have the theater at his alma mater high school named after him, according to a report from The Washington Post

The Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. previously planned to name its theater in honor of Chappelle, as he is a distinct alum and donor. While Chappelle formerly said such a gesture would be “the most significant honor of [his] life,” he announced during Monday’s naming ceremony that it would bear a different title. 

The school’s theater will instead be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression. 

A naming ceremony was initially set to take place in November, but was postponed after the comedian began facing backlash for transphobic jokes in his Netflix special “The Closer.”

Among other things, he said he was “Team TERF,” which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. He also made a joke about Caitlyn Jenner and remarks comparing the genitalia of transgender women to Beyond and Impossible meat.

The jokes embroiled Chappelle in controversy, and reports claimed that some students at Duke Ellington took issue with the comments. When Chappelle ended up visiting the school amid the scandal, Politico reported that one student told the comedian, “I’m 16 and I think you’re childish, you handled it like a child.”

Chappelle Defends Controversial Special 

According to The Post, Chappelle said the criticism against him “sincerely” hurt, but added that “the Ellington Family is my family.” He claimed he did not want the theater being named after him to distract students. 

“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me,” he said according to Josh Rogin, a columnist for the outlet.

Rogin also tweeted that Chappelle took time out of the ceremony to slam the criticisms levied against him, accusing upset students of promoting someone else’s agenda. 

“These kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression,” he reportedly said. 

“You cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance,” Chappelle continued while denouncing the press coverage of his Netflix special. 

According to David Frum, a staff writer for The Atlantic who attended the ceremony, Chappelle suggested he was open to potentially adding his name to the theater at a later date when the community is ready. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Variety) (The Atlantic)

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Chris Evans Says People Upset With Same-Gender “Lightyear” Kiss Are “Idiots”

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The kiss was previously removed from the film until a surge of backlash from Pixar employees prompted Disney to reinstate it. 


Chris Evans Supports “Lightyear” Scene

“Lightyear” star Chris Evans is standing against people who have criticized the same-gender kiss scene in the upcoming Pixar film. 

“The real truth is those people are idiots,” the actor told Reuters this week when discussing negative reactions to the scene’s inclusion. 

“The American story, the human story is one of constant social awakening and growth and that’s what makes us good,” he continued. 

Countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, and more have banned the release of “Lightyear” over the kiss, which is between two women. Right-wing pundits in the U.S. have also slammed it, and user reviews for the picture on websites like IMDB have claimed that movie-going has “become an avenue for political propaganda.”

Evans argued those opinions are outdated. 

“There’s always going to be people who are afraid and unaware and trying to hold on to what was before. But those people die off like dinosaurs,” he said. “I think the goal is to pay them no mind, march forward and embrace the growth that makes us human.”

“Lightyear” hits theaters on Friday starring Evans as the titular Buzz Lightyear. Evans, however, is not playing the action figure made famous in the “Toy Story” movies and is instead playing an animated human astronaut who inspired the toy.

Kiss Scene Almost Never Made it to Big Screen

According to outlets that have reviewed the film, the same-gender kiss is between Alisha Hawthorne, a character voiced by Uzo Aduba, and her wife. 

Multiple reports have stated that Disney was always supportive of depicting a gay couple in the picture, but was more hesitant about showing an on-screen kiss between the two. The studio previously had the scene removed from the film until a swell of backlash prompted it to reinstate the kiss.

The decision came in March amid criticisms over Disney’s slow response to Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill. At the time, a group of Pixar employees wrote an open letter claiming that they have pushed for more inclusion in their films, but “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest.” 

Now that the scene made the final cut of “Lightyear,” it has been a large topic of conversation leading up to the film’s release. On Monday, Evans told Variety that the inclusion of the scene makes him “happy,” but he hopes one day, scenes like this will be considered standard. 

“It’s tough to not be a little frustrated that it even has to be a topic of discussion,” he said. “That it is this kind of ‘news.’ The goal is that we can get to a point where it is the norm, and that this doesn’t have to be some uncharted waters, that eventually this is just the way it is.”

See what others are saying (Reuters) (Variety) (IndieWire)

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