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Meet the alumni fighting for your privacy online

Le Wagon allowed me to code an online privacy project I deeply believe in.

Le Wagon allowed me to code an online privacy project I deeply believe in.

“I have read and agree to the Terms” is the biggest lie on the web. Have you actually read the long and sometimes confusing terms of service before joining a platform ? Do you know what you agreed to ? Most people don’t. Terms of Service; Didn’t Read (ToS;DR) is a project aiming to fix that by making online terms of service readable and understandable by everyone. Now the project is taking off, and they have been invited to participate to the Duckduckgo Privacy Challenge, a major crowdfunding campaign. Meet Chris Talib, Le Wagon Brussels’ alumni who brought this project to our bootcamp.

What were you doing before Le Wagon and what led you to enroll?

I was working for a French NGO defending civil rights online. I was surrounded by geeks and programmers and at some point I also wanted to be able to create my own tools. Also, I wasn't really planning to go back to school, so Le Wagon sounded like a reasonable solution.

Did you have any difficulties with learning during the Bootcamp, and (if so) how did you get over them?

Of course! Learning to code is a big challenge, even for geeky people like me! Nonetheless, the people around you are also struggling so, at some point, you get to help someone and this person helps you back. You really get to learn together and collaborate to overcome all the issues.

What was the best part of your bootcamp experience? What was the most valuable takeaway from Le Wagon for you?

I think the most valuable thing was to realize that after only a few weeks into the bootcamp, I was already able to build a small app and that was amazing. Meeting people from different backgrounds is also something I value a lot.

You coded an MVP to improve a project called "Terms of Service; Didn't Read" during the bootcamp, can you tell us in a few words what this is all about ?

Terms of Service; Didn't Read (ToS;DR) is a project I joined about a year ago. We aim to make online terms of service readable and understandable for everyone. The project works and had some success in the past years. We are trying to bring it to the next level by allowing anyone to contribute in the most easy way. That is what I planned to build at the bootcamp: a crowdreading platform (and this is what we did).

Tell us a little bit about your current position at ToS;DR and how the project is evolving.

So, we are keeping up with Phoenix, our crowdreading platform, and it's going great. We already added new features to what was presented during the Demo Day, as well as the production database from the past years and some security and design fixes. We are planning to release a workable beta version in May to celebrate the entry into force of the GDPR, so people will be able to follow and build knowledge from there.

Just after the Demo Day, we also had the opportunity to work with Duckduckgo (a privacy-aware search engine) on their new privacy add-on. That new browser add-on that allows you to see if the website you are visiting protects you. It checks if the website has HTTPS, trackers and a privacy policy that respects the users. On the last part, Duckduck is directly taking from our database. It is a great honour for a little project as ours to be able to collaborate with such a big actor in the fight for privacy.

Moreover, Duckduckgo invited us at the Duckduckgo Privacy Challenge, a big crowdfunding campaign with more than 20 projects working for transparency, freedom of press and security online and offline such as Freedom of the Press Foundation (where Edward Snowden is working), Let's Encrypt, Tor, Tails, Center for Democracy and Technology, etc. Having ToS;DR there is a great opportunity to ensure the future of the project by raising funds. The last crowdfunding we did was in 2013 so it is time to refill the pot!

Any advice for the next Le Wagon's Alumni?

Coding is great. Trust yourself and try ! And collaborate, there is always more in two (or more) heads than in one. Ask as many questions as you can and you'll be just fine. You are not the first person to struggle and you won't be the last.

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