- Hundreds of employees at the home goods retailer Wayfair walked out of the retailer’s headquarters on Wednesday in protest of the company selling furniture to a government contractor that runs migrant detention facilities.
- After discovering that the company had sold $200,000 worth of bedroom furniture for a center that holds migrant children, over 500 employees wrote a letter asking for Wayfair to stop selling to this contractor and others that run similar operations.
- The protests were carried out after the company did not comply with the demands, but shortly before it started, Wayfair’s co-founders made a $100,000 donation to the Red Cross.
- While protestors appreciated the donation, they say that it does not address the issue at hand and have promised to continue this discussion with management at Wayfair.
Employees Speak Up
Employees at the home goods retailer Wayfair staged a walkout on Wednesday after learning that the company had sold $200,000 worth of bedroom furniture to a government contractor that runs a detention center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas.
The government contractor at the root of the issue is a nonprofit organization called BCFS, which made headlines last year for its harsh treatment of migrants. In September, Wayfair sold furniture to a BCFS facility in Tornillo, Texas that held more than 2,500 teenagers, according to the Washington Post. That camp was closed in January following “serious safety and health” concerns.
Aside from the contractors’ reputation, news of this Wayfair deal came amid outrage over reports that children were being denied basic items including toothpaste and soap at a detention center in Clint.
More than 500 employees signed a letter to executives after finding out about the contract with BCFS. In it, they urged the company to stop doing business with BCFS and other similar contractors that participate in the operation of migrant detention camps. They also called for the company to create a code of ethics for business- to business- sales.
For the record, here’s the letter the employees sent, which includes the details of the B2B order that wayfair fulfilled. pic.twitter.com/mfKs1krawu— Dais (@sun_daiz) June 25, 2019
Management at Wayfair responded with their own letter, telling employees that they appreciated their passion, but defended their actions saying: “It is our business to sell to any customer who is acting within the laws of the countries within which we operate.”
Social Media Users Weigh In
Soon after, a Twitter account appeared dedicated to organizing a walkout.
News of the planned walkout spread quickly on social media on Tuesday and generated international attention, prompting many to call for a boycott of the company. Politicians even chimed in. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about the walkout, saying: “Wayfair workers couldn’t stomach they were making beds to cage children.
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running for president, also weighed in saying, “The safety and well-being of immigrant children is always worth fighting for.”
Walkouts & Red Cross Donation
Several hundred employees protested in Copley Square near Wayfair’s Boston headquarters on Wednesday, including engineers, product managers, visual artists, and others.
In these dark times, seeing this constant stream of employees walk out of the Wayfair offices is making my heart soar.— Lucky Tran (@luckytran) June 26, 2019
They are putting their values over personal risk.
They are showing the real power everyday people have.
But shortly before the protest began, Wayfair cofounders Steve Conine and Niraj Shah sent a note to employees. In it, they said they both “care a great deal about humanitarian issues,” and added, “We agree that there is a crisis at the border and people there are in need.”
The co-founders then told employees that the company would donate $100,000 to the Red Cros to support its “efforts to help those in dire need of basic necessities at the border.”
The Red Cross confirmed receiving the funds saying it was “grateful for Wayfair’s generous donation,” the Chicago Tribune reported. They also said it would put the money towards community-based organizations that are helping with the migrant crisis at the southern border.
Still, protest organizers say the donation does not actually address their concerns.
According to the Boston Globe, one employee said she and other organizers walked out of a meeting with Shah on Tuesday when he refused to meet their demands.
Vox issued a similar report, saying that during that afternoon meeting, the co-founders discussed giving a large donation. “There are questions about which charity to give to avoid anyone being seen as too political,” the employee told Vox. “They said no outright to the ACLU. A lot of it was them not trying to commit to anything too specifically.”
At one point at least one employee asked Conine if the company could meet their two demands and Conine responded that he couldn’t give the answer they wanted to hear. Employees were not satisfied with those responses and pushed forward with the protest.
As far as what happens next, an organizer told the Cut that the walkout was considered a success, but said the demands have still not been met. The online magazine reported, “The protesters will continue speaking with management to try to ensure that their business won’t be profiting off of human misery.”
See what others are saying: (The Boston Globe) (Vox) (CNBC)
The Boeing MAX 8 Scandal & Controversy Explained!
When Boeing first introduced the 737 MAX 8, the new plane was supposed to help usher in a new generation of commercial aircraft. Then two MAX 8’s crashed within five months of each other, killing a total of 346 people.
Since then, the controversy around Boeing has kept growing and growing as numerous investigations revealed a number of highly questionable and even negligent business and regulatory practices that ultimately led to the crashes.
Even now, more than a year after the first crash, Boeing is still in the news and under the microscope as it struggles to keep up appearances.
Facebook to Pay $550 Million to Settle Facial Recognition Suit
- Facebook agreed to pay $550 million to settle a class-action lawsuit in Illinois that claimed its “Tag Suggestions” feature illegally harvested facial data from millions of users in Illinois without their permission.
- Facebook disclosed the settlement while also announcing it made $21 billion last quarter.
- Some championed the settlement as a victory for consumer privacy rights.
- Others argued that no matter how much Facebook pays in lawsuits and settlements, the company has continued to grow and has not fundamentally changed its business practices.
Facebook Announces Settlement
Facebook announced Wednesday that it had agreed to pay $550 million to settle a class-action lawsuit involving facial recognition technology.
The lawsuit was filed in Illinois in 2015 and claimed that Facebook’s “Tag Suggestions” feature violated the state’s 2008 Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).
The “Tag Suggestion” tool uses facial recognition software to scan users’ faces and then suggest the names of other users who might be in the picture.
The lawsuit alleged that Facebook used it to illegally harvest facial data from millions of users in Illinois without their permission or without telling them how the data was kept.
Illinois is one of three states that has its own biometric privacy laws, and BIPA is arguably the strongest of all three.
Under BIPA, companies that collect biometric data, which includes data from finger, face, and iris scans, must get prior consent from consumers and detail how the data will be used and how long the company will keep it. BIPA also allows private citizens to sue.
The lawsuit accused Facebook of failing to comply with those restrictions.
Facebook, for its part, argued that the people who it collected data from without consent could not prove that they experienced any concrete harm, like financial losses. However, the company still ultimately decided to settle.
Once the federal judge overseeing the case approves the settlement, people eligible to claim money are expected to receive a couple hundred dollars.
Other Settlements & Controversies
Many privacy experts and advocates applauded the settlement and said it was a victory for consumer privacy rights.
But others argued that the settlement does not really change anything, because it is not a big deal for Facebook. While $550 million might seem like a lot, for Facebook, its basically pocket change.
Even the way Facebook announced the settlement seemed to emphasize that point. The tech giant disclosed the settlement while announcing its financial results for 2019, reporting that revenue rose 25% to $21 billion in the last quarter alone.
Not only did that indicate how minor the Illinois settlement was for the company financially, it also showcased their incredible ability to weather scandals and controversy.
Over the last few years, Facebook has received a lot of backlash, largely over privacy concerns and the spread of misinformation on the platform.
Most recently Facebook has been under fire for its decision to essentially let politicians lie in political ads.
In July, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined Facebook $5 billion over privacy violations— the largest fine the FTC has ever imposed on a tech company by far.
Facebook’s Continued Growth
But even in the face of massive financial costs and prominent controversies, Facebook still continues to grow.
In an article published by Axios, writer Sara Fischer described Facebook’s ability for continued growth despite those obstacles.
“Facebook closed out the second decade of the millennium stronger than ever,” she wrote. “Facebook’s continued ability to post double-digit revenue growth every year speaks to how well it has been able to innovate and adapt, even in the face of regulatory headwinds and increased competition.”
Fischer gave the example of North America and Europe where Facebook has gotten more money per user each year despite the fact that its user growth in those regions has stayed relatively stagnant.
She also mentioned the Illinois case, FTC fine, and other growing concerns over privacy and advertizing Facebook has warned its investors about.
“So far these fines have proven moot in getting the tech giant to fundamentally change its business, which continues to grow substantially,” she said.
While Facebook did agree to be more transparent about how it uses facial recognition technology as part of the FTC settlement, many are skeptical that the Illinois case will bring about any substantive change.
However, in an investor call following the release of Facebook’s earnings report Wednesday, CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg said that he wanted to be more transparent about the company’s values.
“One critique of our approach for much of the last decade is that because we wanted to be liked, we didn’t want to communicate our views as clearly, because we worried about offending people,” he said.
“Our goal for the next decade isn’t to be liked, but understood. In order to be trusted, people need to know what we stand for.”
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Verge) (The New York Times)
New 2020 Emoji Include Transgender Flag and More Gender-Inclusive Options
- Over 100 new emoji were revealed on Wednesday, set to be released sometime in 2020.
- The new additions will consist of 62 brand-new emoji as well as 55 gender and skin-tone variants.
- The transgender flag, a woman in a tuxedo, and a more gender-inclusive alternative to Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus will be among the new options.
- Other emoji introduced include boba tea, a dodo bird, a smiley face with a tear, and an anatomical heart.
More than 100 new emoji will be available for mobile phone users this year, providing both fun new icons as well as more inclusive and diverse options.
The list was unveiled on Wednesday by the Unicode Consortium, an organization devoted to developing and maintaining software internalization standards and data.
There will be 62 brand-new emoji as well as 55 gender and skin-tone variants, reflecting a push toward a more inclusive collection. Among the new icons will be the transgender symbol as well as the transgender pride flag, an idea proposed by advocates and artists with the help of Google and Microsoft.
Along this same vein, more gender-inclusive options will be seen with this new wave. Both a woman and a non-binary figure in a tuxedo will soon be available, as well as a man and a non-binary figure in a wedding veil.
To complement the already-existing Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus options, a more gender-inclusive alternative will be included as well — under the name of Mx. Claus.
There will also be new emoji depicting parents feeding a baby.
Other new emoji include a smiley face with a tear, two figures hugging, boba tea, and an anatomical heart. The animal section is getting a boost too, as a beaver, a seal, a polar bear, and even a dodo bird will be introduced.
The release date of the new emoji depends on each individual vendor, but Unicode Consortium noted that typically the new icons are rolled out in the fall.
Praise for New Emoji
After the new additions were revealed, many took to Twitter to express their joy about the more inclusive options.
“Incredible power in the new 2020 emojis,” one person wrote.