Category: Technology

Two College Degrees Later, I Was Still Picking Kale For Rich People

Mark Nerys for BuzzFeed News

The customer laughing at me over the phone had a voice that sounded green. Green like overpriced avocado toast, bottled chlorophyll, spirulina, eco-friendly laundry detergent, and other “clean” affectations that seem to sum up a lifestyle that’s so natural, organic, and pristine only wealthy women with cold, tony laughs can afford to live it.

I was working for an on-demand grocery shopping and delivery service called Instacart, often referred to as “Uber for groceries.” I was wooed by stories of Instacart’s flexibility, and because I was a freelance writer, I required that kind of freedom. I also liked the idea of working via an app, because in theory, I could do my job without much customer interaction, which is something I’d grown weary of after years in retail. For about 20 hours a week, I worked at Whole Foods Market in Philadelphia shopping for busy people and shut-ins, selecting all of their groceries with the kind of attention and care that hardly anyone uses when shopping for themselves. It was an incredibly intimate job that involved fondling produce to check for bruises and other irregularities, thinking extensively about customers’ meal plans, and intuiting responses for clients who did not want to be contacted about their shopping lists.

I’d first found myself standing in front of a massive, seasonal apple display in the produce section of Whole Foods Market a few weeks before. Graham, the young, officious orientation leader for Instacart, had impressed upon all of us the importance of finding flawless produce — in this case, perfect honeycrisp apples — for our customers. I dismissed several apples with cuts, and a few that were a bit too small for the size specifications preferred by the app. Instacart times their shoppers, and I was getting further and further away from the desired 1.8-minute picking time per item, which would result in lower stats and possibly a lower tip — metrics that factored into my pay and place in the app’s order dispatch algorithm. Occasionally, a customer's hand would stray into my line of vision and I'd watch as an “OK” apple was plucked from the batch without much judgement. I would soon find out that my own judgment was far worse than I’d thought.

The woman who laughed at me was one of these customers with very discerning tastes currently causing me a lot of anxiety. I was looking over all of the items I’d carefully picked out for her when she gargled that curdling laugh, making fun of my flabbergasted response to her curt manner and rude replies to the questions I had asked about her order. For a second, I blamed myself for making the mistake of contacting her to ask a question. As I palmed an overripe Granny Smith, I thought about how similar my rude customer was to the laughing character in the pea-green dress from Toni Morrison’s Sula. (To pass the time, I often listed scenes from black women’s literature that featured grocery or market scenes.) Her laugh inspired another character, Eva Peace, to feel a “liquid trail of hate”; while I certainly didn't hate the customer who ridiculed me, I could relate to Eva's instantaneous recognition of her emotions and the quickness with which she adapted her outlook.

Still standing in the middle of the produce section with my phone against my face — the call over — I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. With “all my education,” as my family would say, two degrees and the student loans to show for it, I was nonetheless positioned only marginally better off than my grandparents, who ran errands and did other grunt work two generations removed from where I now stood. Activity continued around me, and this glaring manifestation of what it meant to only slightly improve over one’s predecessors was a quiet, personal revelation that somehow moored me and kept me from imploding. I recognized a shared struggle between myself and them, a sort of inheritance. And unlike my grandparents, who had grade school educations and did factory and domestic work, I had options. Or at least, I thought I did.

When I was a kid, I regularly parked myself in front of my great-grandmother’s wood-paneled swivel television that was slowly going bad. In between episodes of her “stories,” aka soap operas, she’d tell some of her own, about working for Jewish families in South Philly during the Depression. Little Mom — that’s what we called her — talked plainly about her revulsion at the dirty work she’d been given and how she’d strung together a number of these small jobs to support my great-aunt Betty and my grandfather, Charles.

The stuff about work usually stayed hidden away, quite like the money she kept folded into a crease in her bosom. When she did tell these stories it seemed like she would almost black out in order to get the details right, listing the indignities she felt working these jobs with a laconic intensity and steady determination: washing the house’s windows inside and out, cleaning the mattresses and box springs, scrubbing the floors on her knees, a lunch of a cheese sandwich and a glass of milk offered by a client that was quickly rejected, getting paid $ 3 a day.

We do the work we have to do, but who wants to be the work we do?

In retrospect, I wonder if she was trying to contain that aspect of her memory so that it would not trouble her every day. We do the work we have to do, but who wants to be the work we do? I now had my own litany of insipid information: How many bananas made up two pounds, the quickest way to check for cracks on all sides of an egg, how many produce bags one needs to properly contain pointy sweet potatoes without ripping them all felt beneath me. I was supposed to be The Writer, not a beat of generational repetition. If, in some future, a granddaughter of mine sat on the living room floor and stared up at me while I remembered my own work, what memory would I have to offer her?

As I bent down to pick up a can of non-GMO chunky tomato bisque soup for a customer, I contemplated what it meant to have a “job.” My family’s work history, like that of many black American families, is one of ingenuity. My grandfather Charlie served in the Korean War, and when he returned to the States he became a longshoreman. He met my grandmother Cissy sometime after that and started a family with her, his second. In the '50s, when they met, my grandmother already had three children with an Italian-American barber who was not ready to commit to her because of the way interracial relationships were viewed at the time. My grandparents had four children together, and my mom is the youngest of that brood.

My grandmother Cissy worked at a storm door factory in Philadelphia for a time, supplementing her income by hosting parlor games like Pitty Pat and Tonk in her home each weekend, and charging each player $ 2 per hand. When she quit the storm door factory, the card games became her main source of income. Then she wrote numbers, or illegal lottery, for the local numbers man. Dream books, the thin, cheap consultation indexes that helped you pick a lottery number that corresponded with a subject from your dreams, were touchstones in all of the women’s kitchens in the neighborhood. My mom, grandmom, and great-grandmother all played their dreams to the numbers man, hoping to come up on a little more money they could use for a hairdo, or trips to Atlantic City, where they pulled levers until their elbows were sore, or for a more pressing issue like bail.

Cissy would hide money all around the house, because she couldn’t open a bank account due to the illegal nature of her work. My mom recalls her hiding money everywhere — in socks, holes in the walls, under mattresses; there were money stashes everywhere but the bank. My grandmother didn’t own that house, on Alder Street between Bainbridge and South, even though she was given the option to at one point from its owner. She rented and rented, and soon took the money, and her family to another home on Marvine Street. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, she lived in an apartment in the Martin Luther King housing projects with my mom.

Sometimes my mom expresses regret that my grandmother never purchased any of the homes she lived in, even though she had the money to do so. The owners of the Alder Street house offered to sell her the house for $ 500, but she declined. Because the job she created for herself was illegal, I think she felt she was unable to purchase the home, fearing inquisitions by tax auditors and police. Now, instead of commiserating with my mom about the lost opportunity, or talking to her about generational wealth disparities, I just listen, because there’s no real answer for that kind of disappointment.

Ever since I can remember, my mom has worked jobs she didn’t quite like. She had dropped out of high school in 11th grade and got her GED when my brother and I were little. At the end of elementary school, my mom worked as a telemarketer, then spent five years as a clerk at various state-owned liquor stores throughout Philadelphia. When I was in high school, she got a job as a front desk associate at a Marriott in downtown Philly. Lateness caused her to lose that job, and another at a Marriott property in Southwest Philly near the airport. After she was first fired, she decided to go back to school to become a diagnostic technician, and she enrolled at the Community College of Philadelphia. I don’t know why she picked that field. She thought for sure that she was finally positioned to have a career and not just a job. Eventually she quit CCP because she couldn’t hold down a decent full-time job and go to school at the same time. Now, when my mom changes jobs, I like to frame these experiences as new adventures, and “fresh starts,” and in some ways they are. Yet, no one I know over 50 has ever started an adventurous job — or at least one that did them any good. My dad’s the perfect example of why that’s true.

My dad wrote short stories and scripts, and moved to New York City to become an actor.

My dad was plucked off of the streets of South Philly by a neighborhood gang when he was young, grabbed by the scruff of his neck by the wrong big dogs. At 16, he was charged with murdering a man, and met his own father for the first time in prison. My paternal grandfather “Doc” had reportedly robbed a bank, truly earning his nickname, a reference to the legendary gunfighter Doc Holliday, and was spending a chunk of years in prison. When my dad got out, he wrote short stories and scripts, and moved to New York City to become an actor. The only fictional work I’ve found of his is a script called The Prince of Thieves, based on a radio play called The Yearning, which aired on college radio in the ‘70s. It’s about two con men who hatch a plan to reform public housing. I only have four pages — one on typewriter paper and the other three handwritten on a yellow legal notepad. Because I’m missing the rest of the script, there are gaps in the story.

Likewise, much of his personal life is a mystery to me. I do know this: When he married my mom and had my younger brother and me, he cut his dreadlocks, his drug habit, and his dreams of a writing career to begin working for the pretzel chain Auntie Anne’s. After a short while, he was promoted to manager, and in 1994, he was selected to open a new franchise in Arlington, Texas. My family moved, and to supplement his income, my dad sold Amway products, or at least tried to — I don’t know if Amway has ever been a successful venture for anyone.

I grew up ashamed of the fact that my dad worked in food service. My mom, who worked the counter for Fashion Fair cosmetics, a beauty line made for women of color, at least had a glamorous association, and beautiful headshots that went with the job. (The beauty section at Dillard’s department store in Dallas was a magic emporium.) But my dad made pretzels for kids to eat in a mall. When I spoke of my dad’s job, I’d get tongue-tied and twisted up, like the elegant motion he used to contort pretzel dough. At the time, it was my observation that while you could dip a pretzel in cheese whiz and get the cinnamon-sugar stuck on your fingertips, you could not cherish or value a pretzel — it wasn’t “real” food. The process of making pretzels, which involved dipping one’s fingers in warm salt water and kneading out dough, was mesmerizing to watch, and fun to do (he let me practice a few times) but didn’t feel like a meaningful skill. I think my dad began to feel the same way at some point, though for a different reason. He was pushing 50, and like the teenaged employees he supervised constantly reminded him, both he and the job were getting old. Then, when we returned to Philly because my grandfather Doc got sick, my dad began to sell drugs.

Weeks before my dad’s murder, he woke up with a start in the middle of the night. He had predicted death in a dream. He also saw skulls in the depressions of two trash bags filled with laundry, which sat in lumps on the loveseat near the bed he shared with my mom. This was the ultimate omen, illuminated in the liminal space that is twilight time. On Christmas Eve 1997, my father’s work caught up with him. He was outside of our house changing a tire in advance of a trip to drop off gifts when my mom, brother, and I heard fireworks below. Afterward, we blamed the lifestyle — the fast money, the decision not to schlep like the average working man — for his downfall.

Perhaps for the women in my family, the existential light bulb that showed profound truths about their lives didn’t click on like the trunk light of an asbestos-dusty Corsica, revealing an interloper in the dark. Or when the blast from a gunman’s barrel flickered in the night, extinguishing my dad’s bright life. I imagine that their intellectual acceptance of the trajectory of their lives did not come from some outside, showy, mano-a-mano understanding of being utterly stuck. It came for them like it came for me, indoors, gradually, though when it finally arrived it did so with a suddenness that felt shocking.

My uncles made use of their options by engaging in street life and an endless cycle of recidivism.

My mom’s jobs contrast with what her mother had done at the same age. Instead of cleaning some white lady’s house, my grandmother Cissy decided to lord over her own. She made money cooking and selling platters to card players in her own house. This was a way for her to do something different than her own mother, who cooked for the rectory of a Catholic church. I see writing as a similarly risky endeavor. I realize that I am more sympathetic to the women in my family, who rebelled against the employment options given to them in ways that were easier to understand, because they didn’t cause other people pain. I’d recently been talking to my mom about one of her brothers who had just been released on parole. My uncles made use of their options by engaging in street life and an endless cycle of recidivism, and I never quite took seriously the idea that the choices they had were shaped by their parents’ jobs. Now the connection feels clearer: My grandmother was a card shark, my grandfather was largely unavailable when it mattered, and my uncles worked with what they were dealt.

While shopping at Whole Foods one day, maybe for sliced cheese that a customer requested be cut a level of thickness described as “the size of five cards stacked together” as the note on the app read, I started drifting off, back to those fictional scenes in grocery stores. Grocery stores have functioned as sites of transformation in novels like Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby, and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, and given my own experience, I understand why. The domestic association of the market makes it possible for turning points to occur, especially in female characters who are relegated there for various reasons. Shopping is such a personal, intimate experience that takes place in the public sphere. It’s an odd ritual for its mix of the private and social coexisting all at once. It is here that my actual foremothers and my literary ones converge. It occurs to me now that the reason I thought so often of fiction while working is not only because these books provided a convenient distraction from my circumstances and reminded me of my goals. It’s also because in these novels, black people who are employed as farmhands, models, and domestic workers are all conveyed with nuance and emotional depth.

Any misunderstandings I have toward my dad, brothers, certain uncles, and cousins are my own fault, and they’re due to the wariness I feel toward the external fighting they’ve done. I’m worried that, no matter how eloquently I describe the men in my family, or how much space I give them on the page, I’ll flatten my loved ones. I’m concerned that my family’s long-term generational mobility will be compromised, not only by bad choices and capitalism and the prison industrial complex but by my own ambitions, too. I’m scared the project of trying to illustrate how their choices have impacted my own will render them as unconvincingly as the characters in the bootleg films one of my uncles once sold. That, ironically, in showing our lineage of work I’ll have them do labor for me, narrative-wise, that they haven’t signed up for. In spite of my concerns, and with permission, I feel I must write it down. This is my story, too. Where do our stories and those of our predecessors diverge? Do they ever?

I stopped scheduling myself at Instacart after the incident with the laughing customer who mocked me, but I’m still a little afraid that I’ll need to return. Though, after doing this kind of soul-searching, I know I can’t go back to picking groceries for someone else. It’s difficult to pick up where the women in my family left off, to strike a balance between criticizing the actions of the men in my family and holding on to a deep belief that they truly are not what they do for a living, despite how it impacts the quality of our lives, and despite how the frequency of their jail trips builds a convincing argument that they have settled into the roles they try to convince us they’ve outgrown. I think I’m more understanding of their aliases and job-hopping and identity-shifting now. Our national history is rife with examples of black Americans facing exclusion from labor movements, as well as general workforce discrimination. It’s not hard to see how the effects of these policies have trickled down. I see my family’s work history, rendered briefly here, as a particular kind of ingenuity necessary for black Americans.

Despite feeling like my female relatives’ strategies are more relatable, I’ve picked up my dad’s job of writing. When I first read his fragmented screenplay for The Prince of Thieves, I read it as veiled autobiography. Now I’m not so sure. I imagine that my dad writing about con men in his script was a referendum on the kind of job he’d left, and then returned to. Although he didn’t make money as a grifter, I think the fact that he was an actor, hustled illegally, and worked multiple regular jobs connects in ways I hadn’t put together before. Both the writing and acting were concerted efforts to recast himself outside of the roles he’d adopted or had handed to him. For a black man of his generation to embrace the circumstances of his criminality, which prompted him to escape in the first place, had to have been a complicated thing to do. Similarly, I see my writing as both a way into and out of familial traditions. It’s a way to look forward without turning my back. It’s the work I want to own.

BuzzFeed – Tech

10 Revelations From Tim Cook’s Big #AppleVsFBI Interview

In an interview with Time, Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about the company’s stance in a high-stakes battle against the FBI and the Department of Justice over an encrypted iPhone.

Carlo Allegri / Reuters

Just days before a courtroom showdown between Apple and the Department of Justice, Time published an interview with Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive. Here are some takeaways worth noting.

“…they started talking to us about how they might sue, or they may put a claim in. But they never told us whether they were going to do it or not. … I think most people here felt like it wouldn't occur, and I felt that if it would occur, I would get a call. And that didn't happen. We found out about it actually from the press, who were being briefed about it in advance of the filing.”

Have you spoken to the President?

“Not about this case.”


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BuzzFeed – Tech

President Obama Makes His Case Against Absolute Encryption At SXSW

AUSTIN, Texas — In an address to the tech community at the South By Southwest Interactive festival Friday, President Obama argued against the complete encryption technology giants like Apple, Facebook, and Google appear to favor.

“It’s fetishizing our phones above every other value, and that can’t be the right answer,” Obama said, referring to arguments that the government should have no entryway into phones.

The remarks were delivered in Austin, Texas, at a time when the FBI is trying to force Apple to unlock an iPhone used by one of San Bernardino terrorists. Apple, backed by a group of high-profile tech companies, has refused, citing the dangers of allowing the government a “backdoor” pathway into its encrypted phones. The FBI is now pursuing the matter in court.

Rich Fury / AP

Despite the ongoing legal action, which Obama would not comment on, the crowd of tech-minded festival-goers welcomed the president warmly, offering loud applause and laughter at his jokes. At one point, Obama listed a number of his accomplishments, ending with the usually derisive: “Thanks Obama.” The crowd roared.

Obama’s argument against absolute encryption hinged on a comparison to searches of homes and traffic stops. When there’s probable cause of a serious crime, he said, law enforcement can obtain a warrant to search a home, go into a bedroom, and “rifle through your underwear to see if there’s any evidence of wrongdoing.”

“We agree on that,” the president continued. “Because we recognize that just like all of our other rights — with speech and religion, etc. — that there are going to be some constraints that we impose in order to make sure that we are safe, secure and living in a civilized society.”

There are reasons to make sure authorities can’t get into private smartphones, Obama acknowledged, adding that the disclosures of Edward Snowden had increased suspicions of the government doing so. But, he added, “there has to be some concession to the need to be able to get into that information somehow.”

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Obama also warned that if the tech community doesn’t help the government now, there could be consequences.

“What you’ll find is that after something really bad happens, the politics of this will swing and it will become sloppy and rushed and it will go through Congress in ways that have not been thought through, and then we will have dangers to our civil liberties because we will have not — the people who understand this best and who care most about privacy and civil liberties, that they’ll sort of disengage, or take a position that is not sustainable for the general public as a whole over time.”

BuzzFeed – Tech

Uber Apologizes For “Imperfect (And Fictitious)” Rebuttal Of A BuzzFeed News Claim

On Monday, Uber walked back a core explanation for the thousands of tickets in its customer support ticket system with the subject “rape.” This change in position comes less than a day after a BuzzFeed News published screenshots from Uber’s Zendesk-based customer support system showing thousands of tickets containing the words rape. Our report led to Uber’s revelation that the company received five claims of rape, and 170 claims of sexual assault directly related to an Uber ride as inbound tickets to its customer service database between December 2012 and August 2015.

Uber responded with a letter signed by three key executives. It directly referenced the Zendesk screenshots, and claimed these were “highly misleading” and contained false matches. It offered three explanations for the prevalence of the word rape in its system. The second of these stated: “Any email address or rider/driver last name that contains the letters R, A, P, E consecutively (for example, Don Draper) are included.”

However, that turned out not to be right. Today, at approximately 1:10 pm Pacific Time, Uber updated its letter with the following:

* An earlier version of this post stated that “ Any email address or rider/driver last name that contains the letters R, A, P, E consecutively (for example, Don Draper) are included. After analyzing the data, we found more than 11,000 rider names and 17,500 rider emails with the letters ‘rape’”.

Zendesk, one of our customer support platforms, contacted us to say that their search tool would not return a name such as “Don Draper” when searching for the word “rape.” However, such a search would (and did) return names that start with the letters R,A,P,E — even if the ticket itself had nothing to do with a claim of rape. We apologize to Zendesk for using an imperfect (and fictitious) example that doesn’t accurately represent their search functionality. This does not impact our analysis of the overall numbers, which was based on a manual review of these tickets rather than a simple keyword search.

The update came following an investigation by BuzzFeed News. Yesterday evening, BuzzFeed contacted Zendesk to specifically ask about its search query capabilities. After failing to get a response, BuzzFeed News called, and stopped by the company's headquarters. Following that visit, Zendesk notified Uber of the error.

Uber's update notes, “we apologize to Zendesk for using an imperfect (and fictitious) example that doesn’t accurately represent their search functionality. “

Prior to the update from Uber, BuzzFeed News had already learned that the Zendesk system did not work in the way Uber claimed in its original statement, and had reached out to Zendesk for confirmation and comment. It is unclear at what point it contacted Uber.

Contact Charlie Warzel (charlie.warzel@buzzfeed.com) if you have additional information about this ongoing story.

BuzzFeed – Tech

Animals Are Taking Selfies At The L.A. Zoo Starting Today

Google Photos is putting cameras with motion sensors in animal pens, and the results are roughly adorable as you’d imagine.

So, Google is getting pretty good at getting animals to take selfies.

So, Google is getting pretty good at getting animals to take selfies.

It's an actual project for the company now, since a promotional campaign with the film Zootopia called for developing animal-friendly cameras and placing them in pens at the LA Zoo.

Google

The cameras work with sensors, so when an animal gets within 18 inches, it takes a picture.

The cameras work with sensors, so when an animal gets within 18 inches, it takes a picture.

Google

The results, so far, are pretty great.

The results, so far, are pretty great.

Google

Giraffes, especially, seem pretty into it.

Giraffes, especially, seem pretty into it.

Google


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BuzzFeed – Tech

This Phone Will Never, Ever Run Out Of Storage

How has this not been invented yet?!

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

This is the Robin. It’s a new Android phone that has smart software, so you don’t have to worry about running out of space.

This is the Robin. It's a new Android phone that has smart software, so you don't have to worry about running out of space.

Robin is made by a company you've never heard of called Nextbit. I know what you're thinking: Another Android device? Aren't there already thousands of those? (24,000, actually.)

But Robin is different for two reasons: it's really freaking pretty and it runs a unique version of Android that analyzes how you use your phone, then sends stuff you don't need (like an app you haven't opened in months or a photo from a week ago) to ~the cloud~ (AKA a giant building full of servers).

Nextbit

I had the chance to try out Robin for a week, and was immediately hooked.

I had the chance to try out Robin for a week, and was immediately hooked.

I was sold before I even turned on the device. The mint version's hardware is playfully colorful. I'd describe its aesthetic as “minimalist kawaii.” ¯_(ツ)_/¯

It's sleek. It's eye-catching. Its material is soft to the touch. It's just… really attractive, which is not an adjective I typically use to describe Android devices.

The phone is definitely a conversation piece. This morning, while I was waiting in line for coffee: “Cute case. What is it?” “No, it's a phone, actually.” “No way, really?” (Yes, way.)

Nicole / BuzzFeed

The phone’s software is awesome, too. When Robin is plugged into a charger and connected to Wi-Fi, it’ll backup apps and photos automatically so you never have to delete content to make room for more.

The phone's software is awesome, too. When Robin is plugged into a charger and connected to Wi-Fi, it'll backup apps and photos automatically so you never have to delete content to make room for more.

A row of blinking lights on the back of the phone will let you know that there's a sync in progress.

Nicole / BuzzFeed


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BuzzFeed – Tech

A Billion Dollars Was Transferred Over Venmo In January

Alex Wong / Getty Images

People transferred $ 1 billion over Venmo in January, the company said today, showing that usage of the mobile money app is still growing fast. The $ 1 billion in transfers is more than 2.5 times the volume seen in January 2015, and ten times as much as January 2014.

In all of 2015, about $ 7.5 billion was transferred using the app. That looks set to grow to at least $ 12 billion in 2016 if the January numbers are sustained throughout the year, but could go even higher: Venmo says one-third of its 2015 transfers happened in the final three months of last year, as the holiday season kicked in.

The payment startup has been lauded by its parent company PayPal, which recently split from eBay. PayPal chief executive Dan Schulman said a conference that the app “really is almost ubiquitous in the under 30 marketplace and it is how they manage and move their money.”

Schulman told CNBC in December that Venmo is “is one of the jewels of Paypal,” and in a call with analysts last month, said the app “is not just another buy button…It is the most beloved way to pay for millennials.” Building on that popularity, Venmo started allowing some apps, including Munchery, to use the service to make in-app purchases, a move that, if expanded, will put it in direct competition with payment services like Apple Pay.

BuzzFeed – Tech

The United States Of Sex Toys: Here’s Who Feels Freakiest

Woman with Shocking Gift

Creatista / Getty Images

Congratulations, America. You've never been so freaky.

Yes, the United States is experiencing a new era of bedroom experimentation, according to import data from Y Combinator graduate Flexport.

After analyzing millions of pounds of sex toy shipments from the past five years, Flexport's data shows that the country's appetite for the bedroom gadgets increased dramatically in 2012 and has remained at a high level since:

Why the spike? Here's one idea: 50 Shades of Grey.

The erotic trilogy's first book published in mid-2011 and shipments really picked up steam in the months following.

Flexport also collected data on which states import the most sex toys. And bravo California, sex toys enter you the most. New York is far behind at number two.

Los Angeles is especially playful.

The city of angels is most popular destination for sex toys in the U.S. You do you, Los Angeles.

So where do all these toys come from? Mostly China.

The factories in China have been busy keeping up with demand. Almost 3 million pounds in sex toys in 2015. Yow!

Flexport's CEO Ryan Petersen told BuzzFeed News in an email he's amazed at how quickly production ramped up in China. “Chinese manufacturers probably didn't read the books to understand why so many more people wanted adult toys, but they saw the signals and were able to respond almost immediately,” he said.

Yeah right. They definitely read the books.

As for Europe, Germany cooled off in 2013.

The U.K and the Netherlands are picking up the slack. Thank god for Holland.

So who is ready for Valentine's Day?

Thomas Northcut / Getty Images

In conclusion, here's a GIF of a man being hit in the face with a dildo during some sort of press conference. They're everywhere!

BuzzFeed – Tech

Cafeteria Workers At Intel Are Protesting

Unite Here has been trying to organize the cafeteria workers at Intel for years. Back in 2014, when workers were at risk of losing their jobs, the union organized a protest on the tech company’s campus. But the workers ultimately didn’t win a union contract.

Two years later, though, the people who serve food to Intel’s employees are still on unhappy. There are around 75 cafeteria workers at Intel, according to a Unite Here spokesperson — and as of yesterday, they were picketing once more.

The cafeteria workers aren’t technically Intel employees. They work for a company called Guckenheimer Corporate Dining. But, because they work alongside Intel employees, a growing coalition of labor activists wants to hold the tech company responsible.

The years since 2014’s protest have seen the advent of a group called Silicon Valley Rising, funded and organized by Working Partnerships USA. It’s a coalition of local religious leaders, labor unions, housing advocates and even a coalition of white-collar tech workers. Organization members are united by their concern over increasing inequality between the developers, engineers, coders and designers who get all the glory in Silicon Valley’s tech industry, and the janitors, landscapers, drivers and food service workers who work there, too.

On Wednesday, the combined efforts of those groups saw somewhere between one and three hundred protesters gathered at Intel’s Santa Clara headquarters. Carrying signs that said “Guckenheimer @ Intel has union contract”, they called for Guckenheimer, the contracted company that actually employs the cafeteria workers, to give them “fair process” to unionize.

The average annual salary in Santa Clara County, where Intel is located, is $ 93,500. Nahima Aguiniga, a single mother of two who works in the Intel cafeteria, said her roughly $ 14-an-hour wage puts her at less than $ 30,000 a year. “I want my kids to live in the place where they grew up, where they can go to school with a tech engineers’ kids,” she told BuzzFeed News. “I have to live with my ex-mother-in-law in a one bedroom with my 14-year-old son and my nine year old daughter. I don’t think that’s fair.”

But it’s not clear whether Aguiniga’s fight is really with Guckenheimer at all. A spokesperson for Intel told BuzzFeed News via email that the company is switching its food service over to a company called Eurest at the end of the month. The cafeteria workers who currently show up to work at Intel’s campus every day might have the chance to apply to work with Eurest, or they could be moved to jobs with another Guckenheimer client, or they could lose their jobs altogether.

Most people have heard of Intel computers, but few have heard of Eurest Dining Services or Guckenheimer Corporate Dining. For this reason, Unite Here and the other Silicon Valley Rising members are trying to hold Intel responsible for the working conditions of the people who serve food there. The California Supreme Court recently passed a law that puts big companies on the hook for everyone who works for it, whether they are employed through a contractor or not. But in this instance it seems pretty clear that Intel doesn’t want to get involved with the problems its lowest paid workers are having. “It is not appropriate for Intel to get involved in the question of whether or not the workers desire union representation,” said an Intel spokesperson via email.

Earlier this month, Intel published the results of its 2015 Diversity and Inclusion Report. The announcement was laden with self-congratulatory language, despite the fact that 75% of Intel employees are male and 86.1% are white or Asian. In an open letter regarding these figures, Intel CEO Brian Kraznich did acknowledge that these are “tough issues” and said the company is “far from done.”

What’s interesting, though, is, based on an informal survey conducted by Unite Here, a little over half of the cafeteria workers at Intel are women, and 78% of them are Hispanic. The company is spending millions of dollars trying to to recruit more diverse job candidates, but some say it chooses to ignore the concerns of one of the most diverse groups of workers at its headquarters.

“We, the contractors, sustain Intel,” Aguiniga said, “but they don’t sustain us.”

BuzzFeed – Tech

India’s Telecom Authorities Have Ruled Against Facebook’s Controversial Free Internet Plan

Manjunath Kiran / AFP / Getty Images

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released their long-anticipated ruling on net neutrality in India. The regulators have ruled against differential and discriminatory pricing of mobile data on the basis of content.

This ruling will affect Free Basics — Facebook’s controversial plan to offer free, but limited Internet access — in India. Mark Zuckerberg has been campaigning to bring increased digital connectivity to the developing world. Free Basics, which claims to have 15 million users in more than 35 countries around the globe, is part of Facebook’s quasi-philanthropic efforts. India is the second largest market for Facebook users after the United States and considered vital to its continued growth.

Today’s much-anticipated ruling by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was not about Free Basics per se. Rather, regulators were reviewing pricing schemes like “zero-rating,” where mobile operators offer access to some websites and services for free, while charging for others. Advocates for digital equality argue that zero-rating gives an unfair advantage to subsidized content, distorts the market for smaller players, and squashes innovation. Supporters of Free Basics, on the other hand, counter that urban elites who already have Internet access should not deny access to the poor, even if more equitable methods exist.

According to the Press Trust of India, TRAI will charge a penalty fee of ₹50,000 a day, and capped at ₹50 lakhs for any discriminatory tariffs charged by service providers. TRAI's decision will be reviewed after two years from the date of issue of the order, February 8, 2016. Service providers have been granted six months to comply with the new rules.

Free Basics was temporarily banned in December until TRAI made its decision. TRAI was supposed to rule last week and rumors have been swirling about the reason for the delay.

In India cheap cellphones have helped make mobile usage common, but only about 20 percent of the population is online. Low Internet penetration is blamed, in part, on prohibitive data charges, which is why prepaid data plans (where consumers know what they're getting into) are ubiquitous. Meanwhile, the country’s telecom market is highly competitive. As a result, telecom providers started offering data packs that promise free or reduced charges to widely popular services like WhatsApp or Facebook long before Free Basics launched in India.

Facebook does not pay for Free Basics, although it does collect data from users. The social network partners with regional telecom operators, who offer the free service as a growth strategy to get customers to start paying for data. In India, Free Basics partnered with Reliance Communications, a telco founded by Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in India.

Free Basics was ostensibly targeted at Indians who had never experienced the Internet or could not pay for data plans. However, Facebook recently struggled to provide a reporter with the name of a single Free Basics user in India who had never been online before. Free Basics allows users free access to limited resources including Wikipedia, Bing search, and the weather, as well as a lightweight version of Facebook. Yet normal data charges apply for outside websites, like Google search results, for example.

Facebook's promotion of Free Basics has been orchestrated like a political campaign. In December, Zuckerberg published an op-ed in the Times of India defending Free Basics. In it, he repeated Facebook’s claim that half of the people who go online through Free Basics end up paying for access to “the full Internet” within 30 days, but offered no further details about the study. “Who could possibly be against this?” Zuckerberg asked. “Surprisingly, over the last year there’s been a big debate about this in India.” Other countries have prohibited Free Basics. It is not offered in Chile, for example, because the government banned zero-rating in 2014.

Danish Siddiqui / Reuters

Public outcry over zero-rating did not begin with Facebook. Last spring, Indian consumers protested Airtel Zero, a data plan that would have given preferential treatment to popular services like Flipkart, one of the country’s largest e-commerce providers. Free Basics eventually supplanted Airtel as the focal point for opponents, in part because Facebook framed Free Basics as a purely altruistic gesture for India’s poor. Indian startup entrepreneurs and professors alike objected to the business model. Facebook countered with an aggressive advertising onslaught of billboards and full-page newspaper ads, but its tone-deaf crusade was brutally spoofed on Reddit.

No one wants to cut off access to the disenfranchised and the vitriol flowed both ways. Net neutrality advocates were accused of being “internet mullahs” who denied access to the poor over their inflexible beliefs.

As an independent government authority, TRAI opted to exercise its power and stepped in to the debate. Helani Galpaya, the CEO of the think tank LIRNEasia, described TRAI as a “thoughtful regulator” during an interview with BuzzFeed News in January. The agency's initial request for feedback emphasized that the “laudable goal” of connecting the unconnected “must not be forgotten.” One of the questions TRAI asked was whether alternative business models, such as offering free data limited by time or volume, rather than content, could offer a less discriminatory alternative.

TRAI has repeatedly called out Facebook for intruding on its regulatory process, which the agency said could have “dangerous ramifications for policy-making in India.” The tension centered around Facebook’s click-to-protest campaign which deluged TRAI with 11.7 million automated comments, when none of the questions asked about Free Basics.

Facebook has updated Free Basics to better serve its intended users before, when prodded. The zero-rated offering was initially called Internet.org — the umbrella organization for its other efforts to bring connectivity to the developing world. Facebook changed the misleading name, made the platform more easily accessible to outside websites and services, and added more security protections for users in response to criticism from net neutrality activists.

Given that Facebook’s future is dependent on growth from emerging markets, India’s debate over Free Basics is far from over. Last week while awaiting TRAI’s decision, Mishi Choudhary, legal director at Software Freedom Law Center, told BuzzFeed News that other areas of the globe including Kenya, Latin America, and Southeast Asia were eagerly anticipating the regulator’s response. “That’s where the moolah is and that’s where the next billion users are,” she said.

BuzzFeed News has reached out to Facebook for comment, and will update this story with more information as we receive it.

BuzzFeed – Tech

Executive Turmoil And Turnover At Twitter

Jack Dorsey

Mike Blake / Reuters

A tidal wave of turnover is coming to the top of Twitter, with a number of critical executives on the way out. In addition, two new board members are reportedly on the way in.

Twitter head of engineering Alex Roetter, product VP Kevin Weil, and head of media Katie Jacobs Stanton are all leaving the company. Following reports in Re/code, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey confirmed the news. Jason Toff, the GM of the Twitter-owned Vine, is also leaving. This being Twitter, all parties tweeted the news.

Twitter did not respond to a BuzzFeed News inquiry, and referred instead to tweets by Dorsey.

In addition, two new board members will soon be appointed, according to a report in the New York Times.

The departures will likely make what has been a turbulent time for the company even more shaky. Twitter's shares have dropped over 22% since the start of 2016, and over 50% in the last year. The company is being pounded by Wall Street investors disappointed by its slow user growth.

The highest-profile Twitter project meant to spark that user growth is Moments, a tab containing curated stories — about news, sports and entertainment, etc. — made up of individual tweets. Moments, released last October, is a product shaped heavily by Weil and Stanton, and their departures don't speak highly of its performance to date.

Twitter is also expected to announce the hiring of a new chief marketing officer on Monday, according to Re/code.

BuzzFeed – Tech

Kids Are Trying To Get Out Of School By Pranking A News Station On Social Media

Social media–savvy kids are annoying the crap out of Chattanooga ABC-affiliate WTVC NewsChannel 9, going as far as to impersonate a school official in an attempt to get the station to falsely report school closings.

But, as these kids are learning, you can only push WTVC NewsChannel 9 so far. WTVC NewsChannel 9 won't take your shit. It will strike back, and do so with a vengeance.

Take, for instance, the Twitter direct message above, provided to BuzzFeed News by WTVC NewsChannel 9 web director Dan Lehr. In the exchange, a student tried using a DM to get the station to “inform students of no school tomorrow.”

WTVC NewsChannel 9 promptly destroyed the troublemaker:

Missing: child.

Last seen: right before getting owned by WTVC NewsChannel 9.

Kids are also taunting the station on Facebook, asking if their schools are closed. WTVC NewsChannel 9 is pissed at the insinuation that it would withhold such information from the public.

Really pissed.

But of course, in the end, the kids win anyway.

Take that, WTVC NewsChannel 9.

BuzzFeed – Tech