We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Google Settles $13 Million Privacy Lawsuit
Silicon Valley giant Google is preparing to settle a class-action lawsuit related to privacy intrusions resulting from its Street View program.
Street View allows users to zero in on maps to see panoramic images that approximate how locations would look if the user was standing on the street. To gather these images, Google sends cars mounted with specially designed cameras down streets around the world. It turns out, however, that along with photos, the cars were collecting information like emails and passwords from unsuspecting residents’ Wi-Fi networks. Investigators discovered that Google engineers had designed the software to do this intentionally.
The $13 million settlement is actually a big win for Google, as the lawsuit could have cost them billions. With revenue of more than $130 billion in 2018, this penalty does not quite rise to the level of a slap on the wrist.
Most of us have caught sight of a car branded “Google” slowly winding its way down a nearby street and felt like we'd spotted Santa Claus. And Street View is not just incredibly useful, it's also entertaining; I've enjoyed looking up my long-ago childhood home to see what changes the new owners have made, and even checked out my current abode to see what Google snapped. However, the news of this settlement is another reminder that our digital conveniences may have a price for our privacy. —Margaret Brady
L.A. Model Shares Text Exchange with Photographer in Spontaneous #MeToo Moment
This week, a Los Angeles-based model called out the exploitative behavior of a celebrity photographer, causing an avalanche of other women’s personal accounts to come forward. Sunnaya Nash told BuzzFeed News that, only a few messages into communication, Marcus Hyde asked for nude photos. When she declined, he said the shoot would cost $2,000. After Nash screenshot the conversation and shared it on Instagram, she has received many personal messages from other models who experienced similar requests for nudes or worse—accounts of Hyde sexually assaulting them on set. “I had no idea it would receive this much attention,” she told BuzzFeed. “I’m thankful that it did because so many girls dm’d me sharing their stories.” Nash has since shared screenshots of those accounts as well, at her Twitter account, after removing the personal information of their senders.
Much like the #MeToo accusations against Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, the alleged abuses recounted by women in Nash’s screenshot conversations bear striking resemblances: a number of women say Hyde asked for nude photos before the photoshoot, served shots of alcohol on set, made direct sexual contact, and never sent them photos afterward. Tragically, many women’s testimonies also resembled each other in their expression of embarrassment and self-blame after the events, keeping them from realizing he had exploited them. Some stated that it was reading accounts from Nash and others that opened their eyes to how their past experience wasn’t an isolated incident but a premeditated setup for assault.
As a celebrity photographer, Marcus Hyde reached prominence due to his work with reality TV star Kim Kardashian. On Tuesday Kardashian posted a note on social media stating, “My own experiences have always been professional, and I am deeply shocked, saddened and disappointed to learn that other women have had very different experiences.” Singer Ariana Grande, who has also worked with Hyde, shared a similar statement.
While news like this is always disheartening, it brings me hope to see how one woman speaking up can help so many others confront shame-covered wounds and begin to heal. Here’s hoping Nash’s story helps more women avoid the exploitation of pressured nude photographs as well as sexual assault disguised as “doing business.” —Mary Rose Somarriba
Boris Johnson is Named the New UK Prime Minister
This past week, politician Boris Johnson took over as the UK’s Prime Minister following the step down of his predecessor, Teresa May, earlier this year. Johnson has become known for his brash nature, and more notably for leading the push for the UK to leave the European Union starting back in 2016. Johnson is the 14th prime minister to serve during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
Ultimately, the change in command revolves entirely around Brexit—namely, the UK’s plan to withdraw from the EU. The country voted on this measure back in 2016, and the pro-Brexit vote won, however with an ultimately undefined strategy for how to implement this separation and terse talks with the EU, the measure has remained up in the air ever since. May tried unsuccessfully to resolve the issue but failed to come up with a plan that satisfied her party. May resigned, and the conservative party voted in Boris Johnson to take her place.
Johnson has been outspoken in his support for Brexit and is now saying that he will obtain a better deal with the EU for the country. He formerly served as May’s foreign secretary but quit over disagreements with how she handled Brexit. "The time has come to act—to take decisions, to give strong leadership, and to change this country for the better,” said Johnson. Standing in front of the Prime Minister’s residence he stated “There are pessimists at home and abroad who think after three years of indecision that this country has become a prisoner to the old arguments of 2016, and in this home of democracy we are incapable of honoring a democratic mandate. I am standing before you today to tell you, the British people, that those critics are wrong," he added in the consistently optimistic address. "The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts." What comes next in this fraught chapter in British and European politics remains to be seen. —Gabriella Patti
F.A.A. Approves New Design to Improve Experience of Flying in the Middle Seat
Starting next year, you may not be grumbling about having the middle seat on an airplane. The Federal Aviation Administration has approved a new seat design, called S1 or “Space Seat”, which is intended to improve the experience of the traveler in the middle seat of three. Created by Molon Labe Seating, the S1 seat sits slightly behind and slightly lower than the seats on either side of it. This affords the passenger in that seat three extra inches of width, plus it allows all travelers in the row access to different parts of the armrests.
An as-yet-undisclosed airline has ordered seats for fifty short-haul planes, which are to be installed in April 2020. The S1 seat can be used within the Airbus A320 family and the Boeing 737.
Also in the works is the S2 or “Stagger Seat,” an option for long-haul flights, which features armrests color-coded to match the seat for which they’re intended. The headrest also has a pseudo-pillow for passengers to lean into while they rest or sleep (instead of the passenger next to them). This seat would also allow for the largest entertainment screen available outside of first-class, should it gain F.A.A. approval. —Lindsay Schlegel
For Oregon Students, Mental Health Problems Count for Sick Days
Media reports state that in the coming school year, new state law will allow Oregon students to cite mental health issues when they call off sick from school.
The law signed by Governor Kate Brown is believed to be one of the first regulations that treat physical health and mental health as equally valid concerns. Students can miss up to five days of school in a three-month period, as long as they provide a proper excuse. Previously, the acceptable reasons for an “excused” absence were limited to family emergencies, doctor appointments, and physical illness. Advocates say that now students who are calling off due to stress, depression, or other psychological problems do not have to come up with a lie to tell that falls into those narrow categories. The law was promoted by four teenagers who started lobbying for the change after a brainstorming session at a student council summer camp.
Oregon has a high suicide rate, especially among young people, and experts say that mental health has been declining nationwide for many years. Whether it's health insurance or workplace practices, many of our institutions have not kept pace with that change, and psychological or behavioral health problems are oddly viewed as separate from illnesses that affect other parts of the body. This, in spite of the case that mental illnesses are often just as debilitating as physical ailments. One hopes this new effort will result in better mental health for the young people of Oregon. —MB
Singer-Songwriter Ryan Adams Hints at Post #MeToo Comeback
In a lengthy Instagram post, musician Ryan Adams addressed the fallout from the New York Times exposé in February that revealed allegations of sexual misconduct, and he suggested he's planning to return to the music scene.
In February, Adams was accused by seven women, including his ex-wife, pop singer and This Is Us star Mandy Moore, of manipulative sexual mistreatment and verbal abuse. One woman stated that she was 14-years-old during their relationship, which was allegedly carried out over Skype and the Internet. The Times subsequently reported that particular accusation resulted in the FBI opening an investigation into Adams.
In the Instagram post, Adams says, “I have a lot to say. I am going to. Soon. Because the truth matters most. I know who I am. What I am. It's time people know. Past time.” He talked about how he didn't have an easy life, mentioning his brother’s death and Meniere's disease, which causes dizziness and hearing problems. He added, “Believe Women. Believe Truth. But never give up on being part of solutions, and healing,” and emphasized his return to music saying, “it’s time to get back to what I do best.”
The case against Adams is particularly damaging as it includes documentation of inappropriate text messages. Since the allegations came out the only substantial consequence has been a canceled tour; his legal consequences are unclear. It remains to be seen whether and how Adams will seek to rebuild his career; if he does, it shouldn’t be at the expense of justice to the women whose lives he altered with abuse. After all, real healing requires the step of making real amends. —MB
Good News of the Week
This week three American brothers and a brother-in-law visiting Ireland for a grandfather’s funeral become unexpected heroes when they saved a 6-year-old girl who had drifted a half a mile out to sea on a flotation device. Three of the men swam to the girl for 25 straight minutes before reaching her, then each took turns towing her back to shore while the other two floated on their backs. The fourth young man waited on shore in case anyone needed CPR.
What’s especially amazing is that the boys realized later that they rescued the girl on the exact same day the brother of their grandfather had drowned decades earlier—the brother of the very grandfather for whose funeral they were visiting Ireland. “It’s kind of like this godly, guardian angel kind of feeling,” Walter told the Washington Post, “that the same day he drowned 64 years ago is the day we actually saved the life of a 6-year-old girl.” —MRS
Watch of the Week
After watching this trailer on the forthcoming film Won’t You Be My Neighbor starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers, you’ll realize why the Washington Post says "people are so ready for a wholesome biopic.”
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