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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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“Emancipation” Producer Apologizes, Hopes He Did Not “Distract” From Film’s Message By Bringing Photo of Enslaved Man to Premiere 

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He said he plans on donating his collection of historical images to appropriate institutions.


McFarland Brings “Whipped Pete” Photo to Premiere 

“Emancipation” producer Joey McFarland apologized on Sunday after facing backlash for bringing the original 1863 photo of the enslaved person the film is based on to the premiere. 

“I wholeheartedly apologize to everyone I have offended by bringing a photograph of Peter to the Emancipation premiere,” he wrote in a statement on Instagram. “My intent was to honor this remarkable man and to remind the general public that his image not only brought about change in 1863 but still resonates and promotes change today.”

The photo, frequently dubbed “Whipped Peter,” is one of the most famous images depicting the gruesome realities of slavery in America. He is facing away from the camera, revealing the severe scarring all across his back. According to the Library of Congress, the formerly enslaved man was actually named Gordon. Will Smith plays him in “Emancipation,” which follows his escape from slavery.

While walking the red carpet of the film’s premiere, McFarland carried the photo with him.  

“I have the photo. This is the original photograph from 1863,” he told Variety. “I wanted it to be here tonight. I wanted a piece of Peter to be here tonight.”

While lamenting the fact that so many historical artifacts have not been properly preserved, McFarland told Variety that he “took it upon [him]self to curate and build a collection for future generations.” He said his collection will be donated after he dies. 

His remarks were met with swift criticism from those who thought it was inappropriate for McFarland to not just own the picture, but to bring it to a Hollywood event. 

“Why do you own the photograph? Why did you bring it to a movie premiere if the intent is to preserve it respectfully?” The Black List founder Franklin Leonard tweeted.

“I don’t know, man, but bringing ‘a piece of Peter’ that you ‘own’ to the red carpet of a movie that’s personally enriching you so that you can collect more slave memorabilia that you’ll keep until your death,” he added along with a giphy of Kenan Thompson saying “yikes.”

McFarland Acknowledges Historical Photos “Belong to the World”

Others argued that the photo should belong to Gordon’s family. 

“Being in possession of a symbol that reflects our trauma is exactly what our oppressor would do. He is his ancestor’s child,” another person added. 

In his apology, McFarland said that he hopes his actions “don’t distract from the film’s message, Peter’s story and just how much impact he had on the world.”

Throughout the development of “Emancipation,” McFarland said he discovered many photos of overlooked individuals with important historical stories. He said he always planned to donate them and believes “there is no better time to begin that process than now.”

“These photographs, which existed before me, will be around long after I am gone; they belong to the world,” he wrote.

See what others are saying: (Variety) (The Hollywood Reporter) (The Daily Beast)

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Joe Rogan Holds Spot As Top Podcaster on Spotify in 2022

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Earlier this year, some threatened to boycott the platform over Rogan and the health misinformation he shared on his show. 


For the third year in a row, “The Joe Rogan Experience” was the number one podcast on Spotify, the company revealed in its yearly “Wrapped” feature on Wednesday. 

“The Joe Rogan Experience” became exclusive to Spotify in 2020 after the host signed a lucrative deal with the audio streaming platform. “Call Her Daddy” by Alex Cooper, also a Spotify exclusive, followed Rogan on the charts. “Anything Goes With Emma Chamberlain,” which will become exclusive to the service next year, came in third.

Rogan’s podcast has made several headlines over the last year as the podcaster faced backlash from medical professionals and major musicians for touting COVID-19 misinformation. Niel Young asked to have his music removed from Spotify in protest of the company’s deal with Rogan, and several other artists soon followed. 

Just a few days later, several clips resurfaced of Rogan using a racial slur. Many called to boycott Spotify for platforming Rogan, but his popularity did not seem to fade by the year’s end. 

There are over four million podcasts available to stream on Spotify and over the last year, the platform has expanded into new markets. 

It also has started launching podcasts from several high-profile figures, including Kim Kardashian’s “The System,” and Meghan Markle’s “Archetypes.” Both of those debuted mid-year and did not crack the annual top-five list.

See what others are saying: (Spotify) (Variety) (Forbes)

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Comedian Gives David Beckham Ultimatum: Exit Role at Qatar World Cup Or £10K in Donations Gets Shredded

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“Not just the money, but also your status as a gay icon will be shredded,” Joe Lycett said in a video.


Pressure on Beckham

Comedian Joe Lycett posted a video on Sunday saying he would shred £10,000 if soccer star David Beckham does not pull out of his deal to be an ambassador for the Qatar World Cup. 

Ahead of the event, which kicks off on Nov. 20, many have been raising concerns about human rights abuses in Qatar. The country criminalizes homosexuality, and it can be punishable by death. 

Beckham’s deal to represent the country was reportedly worth £10 million, and many are frustrated that the athlete took such a big check from a country with known anti-LGBTQ laws. In his video, Lycett noted that Beckham has been openly supportive of his gay fans and was the first premiere footballer to do a photoshoot with a gay magazine. 

In an attempt to get Beckham to bow out of his role, Lycett, who is pansexual, offered an ultimatum.  

“If you end your relationship with Qatar, I’ll donate this £10,000 of my own money, that’s a grand for every million you’re reportedly getting, to charities that support queer people in football,” he stated. “However, if you do not, at midday next Sunday, I will throw this money into a shredder.” 

“Not just the money, but also your status as a gay icon will be shredded.” 

Beckham’s Reputation “Shredded”

Lycett said he would livestream the money shredding if that’s what the situation comes to. If Beckham does not back out of the World Cup, Lycett noted he will be forced to “commit what might be a crime,” as destroying legal tender is against the law in the U.K.

“Although even then, I reckon I’ll get off more lightly than I would if I got caught whacking off a lad in Doha,” Lycett quipped.

Lycett then linked to a website titled https://benderslikebeckham.com/, which includes a written version of his message, as well as a countdown to when he will either shred the cash or send it to a non-profit. 

Lycett is not the only U.K star to raise concerns about issues in Qatar. Singer Dua Lipa shut down speculation that she would be performing at the World Cup over the weekend by saying she has no intentions to visit the country until “it has fulfilled all the human rights pledges it made when it won the right to host” the event. 

Other stars, however, including BTS’s Jung Kook, are slated to take the stage. 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Hollywood Reporter) (BBC News)

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