TIME language

Oxford Dictionaries Adds ‘Fat-Shame,’ ‘Butthurt’ and ‘Redditor’

Many terms reportedly 'butthurt' after not being included in the latest update

Oxford Dictionaries announced its latest additions on Wednesday, highlighting the things we were talking about in the summer of ’15—like angry Internet commenters, gender identity and what a sweet time of day “beer o’clock” is.

Oxford Dictionaries is the branch of the Oxford family that focuses on modern language—words that people are using now and how they’re using them—which makes their barriers to entry different than the venerable, historical Oxford English Dictionary. Their new words often arise from fresh technology and pop culture and might include Internet slang (like new entry pwnage) that would get laughed out of the OED’s admittance office.

As with every update, the additions reflect who English-speakers are. Sometimes we are microaggressive brain-farters. At other times we are butthurt pocket-dialers. At others still, we are simply hangry fat-shamers or rando Redditors.

Among the lessons about who we are right now: The addition of Mx., a gender-neutral honorific for those who do not want to be referred to as Mr. or Mrs., reflects today’s more thoughtful conversations about gender identity, spurred on by the likes of Caitlyn Jenner. Grexit, a term for referring to the possible exit of Greece from the European Union, points to how global our economy is becoming. And the addition of barbacoa illustrates how much people like Chipotle.

Here is a selection from this latest update, including definitions of all the italicized words above:

awesomesauce (adjective): extremely good; excellent

bants (noun): playfully teasing or mocking remarks exchanged with another person or group; banter

barbacoa (noun): (in Mexican cooking) beef, lamb, or other meat that has slowly been cooked with seasonings, typically shredded as a filling in tacos, burritos, etc.

beer o’clock (noun): an appropriate time of day for starting to drink beer

brain fart (noun): a temporary mental lapse or failure to reason correctly

Brexit (noun): a term for the potential or hypothetical departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union

bruh (noun): a male friend (often used as a form of address)

butt dial (verb): inadvertently call (someone) on a mobile phone in one’s rear trouser pocket

butthurt (adjective): overly or unjustifiably offended or resentful

cakeage (noun): a charge made by a restaurant for serving a cake they have not supplied themselves

cat cafe (noun): a café or similar establishment where people pay to interact with cats housed on the premises

cupcakery (noun): a bakery that specializes in cupcakes

deradicalization (noun): the action or process of causing a person with extreme views to adopt more moderate positions on political or social issues

fast-casual (adjective): denoting or relating to a type of high-quality self-service restaurant offering dishes that are prepared to order and more expensive than those available in a typical fast-food restaurant

fatberg (noun): a very large mass of solid waste in a sewerage system, consisting especially of congealed fat and personal hygiene products that have been flushed down toilets

fat-shame (verb): cause (someone judged to be fat or overweight) to feel humiliated by making mocking or critical comments about their size

fur baby (noun): a person’s dog, cat, or other furry pet animal

glanceable (adjective): denoting or relating to information, especially as displayed on an electronic screen, that can be read or understood very quickly and easily

Grexit (noun): a term for the potential withdrawal of Greece from the eurozone (the economic region formed by those countries in the European Union that use the euro as their national currency)

hangry (adjective): bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger

kayfabe (noun): (in professional wrestling) the fact or convention of presenting staged performances as genuine or authentic

MacGyver (verb): make or repair (an object) in an improvised or inventive way, making use of whatever items are at hand

manic pixie dream girl (noun): (especially in film) a type of female character depicted as vivacious and appealingly quirky, whose main purpose within the narrative is to inspire a greater appreciation for life in a male protagonist

manspreading (noun): the practice whereby a man, especially one travelling on public transport, adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat or seats

meeple (noun): a small figure used as a playing piece in certain board games, having a stylized human form

mic drop (noun): an instance of deliberately dropping or tossing aside one’s microphone at the end of a performance or speech one considers to have been particularly impressive

microaggression (noun): a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority

mkay (exclamation): non-standard spelling of OK, representing an informal pronunciation (typically used at the end of a statement to invite agreement, approval, or confirmation)

Mx (noun): a title used before a person’s surname or full name by those who wish to avoid specifying their gender or by those who prefer not to identify themselves as male or female

pocket dial (verb): inadvertently call (someone) on a mobile phone in one’s pocket, as a result of pressure being accidentally applied to a button or buttons on the phone

pwnage (noun): (especially in video gaming) the action or fact of utterly defeating an opponent or rival

rando (noun): a person one does now know, especially one regarded as odd, suspicious, or engaging in socially inappropriate behaviour

Redditor (noun): a registered user of the website Reddit

social justice warrior (noun): (derogatory) a person who expresses or promotes socially progressive views

subreddit (noun): a forum dedicated to a specific topic on the website Reddit

swatting (noun): the action or practice of making a hoax call to the emergency services in an attempt to bring about the dispatch of a large number of armed police officers to a particular address

weak sauce (noun): something that is of a poor or disappointing standard or quality

wine o’clock (noun): an appropriate time of day for starting to drink wine

Read next: 15 Words You Need to Eliminate From Your Vocabulary

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TIME language

Why Dropping ‘Anchor Baby’ Is a Problem for Politicians

Dictionary
JGI/Jamie Grill—Getty Images/Blend Images

Language experts share their thoughts on how politicians and dictionaries have treated a heated term

Jeb Bush’s recent references to “anchor babies”—meaning certain children of undocumented immigrants, who are granted American citizenship by virtue of having been born within the nation’s borders—have landed the 2016 candidate in hot water, even after his attempt this week to clarify that was referring to isolated cases of Chinese “birth tourism” rather than to Hispanic immigrants. The outraged response was swift. “No matter which ethnic group you’re referring to, ‘anchor babies’ is a slur that stigmatizes children from birth,” California Rep. Judy Chu said in a press release.

Crucial to Bush’s defense of the term is the idea that it’s simply what you call the phenomenon he’s talking about. “You give me a better term and I’ll use it, I’m serious,” he told reporters. But, in fact, the phrase is a relatively recent coinage and, though it might seem cutesy—the type of thing that Stephen Colbert can use to make puns about children who steal microphones from newscasters on live TV—its history is anything but.

Many people trace the idea’s origins to the 1980s, when the term “anchor people” or “anchor children” was used as an epithet for Vietnamese youth whose families sent them to the U.S., with the hope that they could make money and then sponsor relatives back home for citizenship. (When these kids arrived in shabby vessels in Hong Kong, seeking asylum before traveling across the Pacific, locals called them “boat people.”) However, those early uses were not expressing the same idea that’s up for discussion today: the “anchor children” of that era were relatively older refugees, following in the footsteps of countless young people throughout American history who have set up homes in their new nation before helping their families immigrate.

It was years later that the new model of “anchor baby” started to take off, with a new meaning: infants conceived specifically so that their families could somehow benefit from their birthright citizenship. In the mid-2000s, proponents of strict immigration laws used the phrase to make arguments for keeping the doors closed tighter. Mainstream usage was spread by outlets like Newsmax and Fox News giving a larger platform to those voices, according to research documenting that spread. (The anchor baby’s more extreme cousin is the “terror baby,” the hypothetical kid who is birthed in America to more effectively carry out home-grown terrorism later on.)

The term really took hold in 2011, when the American Heritage dictionary sparked a controversy by adding an update with this definition:

anchor baby, n., A child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially such a child born to parents seeking to secure eventual citizenship for themselves and often other members of the family.

The dictionary’s editor said on NPR that they had attempted to “objectively” define the phrase. And it’s true that the two words on their own are each innocuous. Being an anchor can even be a compliment. “There’s nothing specifically about the words themselves that makes them offensive,” says linguist Ben Zimmer, executive producer of Vocabulary.com, “but the idea that people are trying to find a devious way to get into the country by having children here basically dehumanizes everyone involved.” Advocates at places like D.C.-based Immigration Policy Center called the dictionary’s entry “poisonous and derogatory” for lacking the “offensive” label that is attached to definitions of taboo words.

In a few days, the definition was updated:

anchor baby, n. Offensive Used as a disparaging term for a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially when the child’s birthplace is thought to have been chosen in order to improve the mother’s or other relatives’ chances of securing eventual citizenship.

This about-face stirred debates about who should decide what’s offensive and who shouldn’t. Was an American institution kowtowing to liberals? Or was a dictionary being descriptive about how a word is truly perceived among English-speakers? When Oxford Dictionaries quietly added their definition after that controversy settled, they tagged it with a bright orange offensive label. Those signs are, Oxford editor Katherine Martin says, not chosen by lexicographers making emotional decrees but affixed as guidance for people who want to use the language intelligently.

Often when language gets accused of being offensive, public figures and media shift to more neutral ground, which can lead to some exhausting phrasing. (When the AP banned their journalists from using undocumented immigrant and illegal immigrant, for instance, standards editor Tom Kent suggested to TIME that a more precise description might be “foreigners in the United States in violation of the law.”) Martin says one problem with anchor baby is that there is no natural alternative, overwrought or otherwise—and not for the neutral reason suggested by Bush, whether or not he meant to insult anyone. “There is no neutral term for this because it is a term that is intended to be derogatory,” she says.

One indication of that intention, as the Washington Post‘s Amber Phillips points out, is that the idea it describes doesn’t entirely make sense in practice. As TIME explained in 2011, “the law says the parents of such a child must wait till she is 21 for her to be allowed to sponsor them to live and work legally in the U.S., and research shows that the vast majority of children of illegal immigrants are born years after the mother and father have arrived in the U.S.”

Regardless, the phrase has stuck. And, while debate over its use can actually lead to discussion of important issues like candidates’ positions on birthright citizenship (Bush is for it; Donald Trump, who also uses the term, is against it), that stickiness is just one more reason for conscientious politicians to steer clear of it, says linguist Zimmer. “The difficulty is that those pithy words and phrases are much more memorable and work their way into the public consciousness,” he says. “And once they’re there, they are difficult to dislodge.”

TIME Travel

‘Airbnb for RVs’ Launches Nationwide

Winniebago Camper Van
Andrew Watson—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Embrace your inner Airstream

Have you ever wanted to take an RV on a camping trip without having to actually own an enormous vehicle? Do you own a $90,000 RV that spends 11 months of the year languishing in your driveway? Then the startup for you has just gone live.

Outdoorsy emerged from its beta stage in California and launched nationwide on Thursday. In the words of co-founder Jen Young, the company is a “a community-driven marketplace for renting RVs directly from local RV owners, making sure everyone has access and opportunity to get outdoors.” The company currently has 2,300 RVs listed on the site, with about 75 more being added each day. Options range from low-fi models for $65 a day to full-on glamping machines for nearly $650 a day.

Co-founder Jeff Cavins says that the owners might not be the fanny-pack-clad grandparents you’re picturing. Of the 16 million registered RVs in the U.S., the average owner age is 48, he notes, meaning that these are people still working full-time, perhaps putting kids through school, folks who can likely use some extra cash for an expensive commodity otherwise lying idle. According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, the average RV owner is only out and about in their land cruiser for three weeks out of the year.

That makes RVs ripe for collaborative consumption, getting more out of things already filling up the world instead of drumming up demand for more things. So far, Outdoorsy’s average rental has been for six days, which has added up to about $2,400 total, or $400 per night. The price, Cavins says, is often puffed up by renters adding options ranging from paddle boards to BBQ kits. And even at that price, it might be an affordable option for groups and families, given that cost includes transportation (minus gas), lodging and some entertainment for what could be six people. Young says the freedom to be spontaneous with a vacation rather than meticulously planning out a trip is another key selling point.

Cavins says that current options for renting RVs from companies are like impersonal “bowling shoes.” And he emphasizes that, unlike Craigslist, their marketplace for peer-to-peer rentals provides insurance coverage for both parties, as well as a cashless payment system.

Outdoorsy takes a cut from the RV lender, about 15%, and they charge the renter a service fee of about 10%. That’s money they may use to help the listers with their photography or other practices that boost their profiles, much like Airbnb quasi-trains their hosts in how to treat and please their guests.

“The founders are most excited about building this company because it will decrease waste,” says Young. “It provides an opportunity to be enterprising to people who never would have thought something they owned for their own enjoyment could provide financially life-changing benefits.” And for everyone else, it—at the very least—provides more reasons to say the word Winnebago.

TIME LGBT

Why Transgender People Are Being Murdered at a Historic Rate

The number of transgender people murdered in the U.S. this year is at a historic high of 15, activists say — with over four months still to go

In the windows of some small cafes and churches around Central Brooklyn, there are little white stickers with rainbow-colored writing. These signs put up by the Audre Lorde Project say “Safe Space,” designating those buildings as places of sanctuary for LGBT people who are experiencing harassment or violence on the street.

Despite New York City’s inclusive policies for LGBT residents, the borough of Brooklyn still saw four “hate violence” incidents against them in the space of just two weeks this summer, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP). People were threatened with death, they report, punched in the face, slurred at, socked with rocks.

For one particular community, these instances of violence happening around the country have higher chance of becoming fatal. On Aug. 14 the number of transgender people murdered in America this year hit a historic high of 15, according to advocacy organizations like the National Center for Transgender Equality. This somber milestone was hit when the remains of Elisha Walker, 20, were discovered in a North Carolina field several months after she went missing. Like the majority of the other victims, Elisha was not just transgender but a young transgender woman of color.

“These are all characteristics of people in the United States who are more susceptible to violence,” says the Center’s Mara Keisling, “of people who are more marginalized economically and educationally, people who end up having a bullseye on their back.”

The legal victories and increased media coverage of LGBT people in recent months has been largely positive for the community, experts like Keisling say. More people feel comfortable coming out, giving others the chance to meet and befriend someone who is transgender or gay, building the personal relationships that activists say are often the foundation for acceptance.

But the heightened visibility has also put more people at risk of being harassed or hurt. While images of Caitlyn Jenner receiving a standing ovation accepting an award in a Versace dress might seem to herald a sunny time for transgender Americans, most of them are still greatly disadvantaged socially and economically.

“Right now we’re experiencing a Dickensian time, where it’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times at once,” says transgender rights advocate Masen Davis, who formerly ran the Transgender Law Center. “We’re seeing a marked increase in the public awareness about transgender people and really incredible progress for trans rights, especially from a legal perspective. At the same time, we still represent and are part of a community that experiences incredibly high rates of unemployment, poverty and violence.”

Transgender people are four times more likely than the general population to report living in extreme poverty, making less than $10,000 per year, a standing that sometimes pushes them to enter the dangerous trade of sex work. Nearly 80% of transgender people report experiencing harassment at school when they were young. As adults, some report being physically assaulted trains and buses, in retail stores and restaurants. Greater awareness has not yet translated into broad acceptance, says Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center: “The majority of society does not understand who transgender people are in ways that lead to the violence and the murder and the harassment that we’re seeing.”

The risk is even greater for transgender women of color, who often grapple with both transphobia and racism. Sixteen of the at least 20 LGBT people murdered in 2014 were people of color, according to the NCAVP; 11 were transgender women, and 10 were transgender women of color. “People who are marginalized both because of their race and being transgender, it’s like a double whammy,” says Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

These figures likely don’t give a full picture of violence against the transgender community. Though a federal hate crimes law requires the collection of some statistics related to violence against transgender people, experts are dubious about the numbers they’re getting. “A lot of jurisdictions report zeroes, even in places where we know there are hate crimes,” Keisling says. Most state laws don’t require the collection of such statistics, according to Minter.

He says numbers are often misreported too. Incidents may not be determined to be hate crimes because there was no investigation, for instance. Crimes against transgender men like Brandon Teena—who was raped and murdered in Nebraska before his story was told in the film Boys Don’t Cry—may be recorded as crimes against women because many don’t have the money (or desire) for medical intervention.

The NCAVP, which collects the most complete figures on hate crimes against LGBT people, notes that the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated there may be 40 times more hate crimes occurring nationally than the FBI reports. Overall, the NCAVP has been receiving far fewer reports of hate violence toward the LGBT community in the last two years, down to 1,359 incidents in 2014. But they say this is a result of the collection process, not “an actual decrease of bias-based violence,” and they say their statistics do not represent exhaustive national numbers.

Minter says that the murder rate, as well as the chronic harassment many transgender people face, is best tackled through better education and more community-based programs, like those white stickers in Brooklyn windows that create networks of support among people who walk the same streets each day. Hate crime legislation is helpful in sending a message about the value of lives, he says, but it’s not going to solve the problem.

“We all have a responsibility to stop this violence,” he says, “and that means if you see a transgender person being harassed, we all have an obligation to speak up, to do something.”

TIME justice

California Court Gets One Step Closer to Deciding Uber’s Fate

An Uber ride in Washington on April 8, 2015.
Andrew Harrer—2015 Bloomberg Finance LP An Uber ride in Washington on April 8, 2015.

Lawyers argued over whether 160,000 Uber drivers in California can be treated as one class

For Uber’s lawyers, the case heard before theirs in a San Francisco courtroom on Thursday may have looked like a harbinger of future woes.

California Northern District Judge Edward Chen was going over the details of a $227 million settlement that FedEx, a 44-year-old company with close to the same value as 6-year-old Uber, agreed to pay earlier this summer. That payout should end an argument over whether FedEx misclassified 2,100 drivers as independent contractors in California and thus denied them benefits that employees get like overtime pay, reimbursed expenses and meal breaks. Soon Uber’s lawyers would be before the same judge arguing about the same classification question — with respect to about 75 times that many drivers.

At stake in a suit that could shape the future of the on-demand and sharing economies was the question of whether 160,000 Uber drivers in California can be treated as a single class. Uber’s lawyers argued that they cannot, that there is no such thing as a “typical” Uber driver and that it would make more sense for each driver to bring their own case — an expensive undertaking that most drivers likely wouldn’t pursue.

On the other side was Boston-based lawyer “Sledgehammer Shannon” Liss-Riordan, who spent a long, heated afternoon arguing that three Uber drivers should be able to stand in for all current and former drivers in the state. If Chen sides with her when he rules in the coming weeks, that would make this single suit potentially worth billions and capable of setting a precedent that sends other startups reeling to revamp their business models.

Following in Uber’s tracks, a long string of startups have shaped their business models around treating drivers or couriers or cleaners as independent contractors rather than employees. That’s a much cheaper proposition but it requires that companies give up control. While contractors legally can’t be told when or how to work, they also don’t have to be paid minimum wage or given money for the gas they use on the job. Uber doesn’t have to shell out any payroll taxes for independent contractors or pay them workers’ compensation.

Liss-Riordan, who was given her nickname by American Airlines skycaps after winning them a six-figure settlement in a wage-and-hour case, argue that Uber is really an transportation company using technology to pose as mere software licenser in order to save money and unfairly compete. The company exercises the kinds of control that employers do, she has argued, setting the rates that drivers earn per mile, telling them which models of cars they can drive and kicking them off the platform for getting low ratings.

In the arguments over the diversity of Uber drivers in California, questions arose about what all the drivers want — and whether it matters. Theodore Boutrous presented some 400 declarations from drivers who said they loved being contractors, that they didn’t want their status to change, that they cherished the freedom that their status affords them. If they were employees, “the business model would have to change,” Boutrous warned, “and there would be rigid schedules and this flexibility and this autonomy couldn’t exist.”

Liss-Riordan countered by offering a declaration from her paralegal, who had called about 50 of those drivers to ask if they understood the stakes. “They didn’t realize they could be reimbursed for expenses,” she said. “They didn’t really understand what this was about.” Chen questioned Boutrous’ claim that their flexibility would have to evaporate if they were reclassified, saying those drivers may have been under the impression that things would have to change rather than be within Uber’s discretion to change.

A growing group of startups who began their lives using the contractor model are reverting to more traditional employment, saying that they’re willing to pay the extra costs to have more direct control over their workers and their process. Curtis Lee, CEO of on-demand valet company Luxe, says that they hope that as employees their valets will be more likely to stick around and be more dedicated to the company. They still will not be required to work a minimum or maximum amount of hours as employees, he says, though they will start scheduling them in shifts. Lee also says that he doesn’t think the conversion is right or fair to force on every company. “For Uber, it’s a totally different situation,” he says.

Boutrous spent his day arguing that point, cataloging how some the 160,000 have agreed to 17 different terms of agreement, some of which forbade them from driving for other companies like Lyft while their Uber app is on (which many drivers do). He detailed how some have used Uber to start their own small businesses while others turn on the app just a few hours per week. While some of them do rely on Uber to make a living, others use it for a little extra cash or to make their car payments. “These are real live human beings who vary widely,” he says. “It’s a hornet’s nest.”

The day ended with Chen inviting the lawyers for the two remaining cases on the docket to approach the bench. Like Liss-Riordan, both of them were arguing cases against Uber, involving issues like how the company conducted background checks. Boutrous stood and reintroduced himself as the counsel representing the company in case after case. If Chen rules that the 160,000 drivers can go ahead as a class, that might make Uber more seriously consider settling that suit amidst its own hornet’s nest of legal troubles.

TIME privacy

These Companies Have the Best (And Worst) Privacy Policies

TIME teamed up with the Center for Plain Language to rank privacy policies from readable to ridiculous

Only the most diligent among us actually read technology companies’ privacy policies, though we all should. They lay out what the companies that we interact with daily are collecting and sharing about us—not to mention, in some cases, about our families and friends and everyone else we happen to correspond with.

But it’s not just on us, the users, to make an effort. Companies can package this information in a place that’s easy to find and in way that’s easy to understand and act on, or they can bury it beneath mounds of tedious legalese in some cobweb-strewn corner of their website.

In an effort to assess, exalt and shame some of the world’s leading tech companies for how they’ve presented privacy information to millions of users, TIME reached out to the Center for Plain Language. Every year, this non-profit grades government agencies on how well they’re following the spirit and letter of the Plain Writing Act—a 2010 law designed to eliminate bureaucratic gobbledygook. The Center also works with businesses, with the mission of teaching the powerful among us about how important it is to communicate in clear, comprehensible English.

We asked the Center’s experts to judge and rank the privacy policies of seven tech companies that most consumers know. They did this on several levels, assessing everything from design and tone to how many words writers tried to pack into each sentence. They also examined the more subjective “spirit” of their policies. Does the policy, for instance, make it easy for people to limit the ways in which the company collects their personal information? Or are instructions about opting out obscured in the policy’s hinterlands with no hyperlinks?

Here are their results, ranked from the company with the best-presented privacy policy to the worst, according to the Center for Plain Language:

  1. Google
  2. Facebook
  3. LinkedIn
  4. Apple
  5. Uber
  6. Twitter
  7. Lyft

To be clear, this is not an assessment of what data these companies have decided to collect from users or what they’ve decided to do with that data. Instead, it’s about how obvious they have made those decisions to the users affected by them. The companies who did this the best avoided jargon and confusing sentence structure, clearly organized their information and used a lively tone. The policies that did not rank highly contained 100-word-long sentences, obtuse explanations and little sense of design.

“A privacy policy that consumers are unlikely to read or understand provides no protection whatsoever,” the Center’s experts write in their report. “The results of our study are quite consistent, especially at the top and bottom of the rankings: Google and Facebook do a good job of communicating their privacy policies in a way that allows consumers to understand and make decisions—at least motivated consumers. And Lyft and Twitter do a poor job of communicating those policies. The remaining companies—LinkedIn, Uber, and Apple—do better in some areas than others.”

The Center used both expert judges to assess policies at a high level and software to evaluate the policies at the sentence level. Here are some telling comments about each company’s policy from judges Deborah Bosley, Meghan Codd Walker and Jeff Greer—all members of the Center for Plain Language Board. You can read the full version of their report at the bottom of this post.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.16.04 PM

#1. Google: No privacy notice is perfect, but Google has created a good model for a clear, plain language approach. I’m at times skeptical/concerned about how much access Google has to my personal information, but this notice’s audience-focused approach actually increased my trust in them.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.20.34 PM

#2. Facebook: “I think we should note the difference between the Apple and Facebook policies. Apple [simply] points out how they minimally store customer data. Facebook, in the “What kinds of information” section, documents just about every interaction a customer has, and then talks about how those interactions are collected and stored. I’m marking this as above average not because I agree with Facebook’s practices, but because they’ve clearly communicated those practices.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.21.40 PM

#3: LinkedIn: “I appreciate LinkedIn’s obvious efforts to make their privacy policy easier to understand . . . But when you dive deeper into the more thorough policy, I think the language and structure leave something to be desired. The sentences should often be shorter, and the lack of headers and bullets within sections make wading through the content harder—even if it mostly avoids jargon. I would use this privacy policy as a ‘good intentions but not quite there’ example of plain language.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.27.40 PM

#4: Apple: The notice seems to have some respect for the audience and feels credible. But I don’t think they genuinely want people to read the notice, given how they’ve hidden the paths for adjusting how you share your information.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.30.34 PM

#5: Uber:Outside of the short introduction, there’s nothing here that distinguishes the tone. It feels and reads like a document written by lawyers for people who don’t really read this kind of document. This could be softened with the use of contractions, or better yet, a plain language translation of the legalese.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.32.24 PM

#6: Twitter: There are occasional moments of clarity, but many of the sentences and paragraphs are long and hard to read . . . this is mostly a black and white wall of text.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.34.57 PM

#7: Lyft:The only decent parts of this notice are the clear headings they provide for each section. Readers can tell what should be in that section, but then the writing is so unclear, they likely won’t find the information they need . . . Everything about this notice screams, ‘We don’t want you to read this!'”

The report ends with the Center noting that all the policies show room for improvement, though they realize only a certain amount of candor is likely to come from such tech companies.

It seems unlikely that a business would give its customers this very plain message: “By reading this policy, you agree to let us keep track of you, your email and photos, where you go, your devices, the Internet providers you use, and possibly the same information for everyone in your social network. And if we decide we want more information, we will let you know—in some way—maybe before we start tracking that, too.”

On the other hand, the use of plain language tends to build trust between a company and its customers . . . the market will likely dictate when and the extent to which the companies improve.

Here’s the full report from the Center for Plain Language:

Center for Plain Language Privacy Policy Analysis

TIME Labor

Why Startups Are Making the Expensive Switch to Traditional Employment

"After a while you realize that some of the trade-offs you were making weren’t really good trade-offs"

Correction appended, Aug. 5

On-demand valet service Luxe announced Tuesday that they were expanding to an eighth city, Philadelphia—but that development was tiny compared to news that went out late last week: the company announced that the hundreds of workers who run around cities like Philadelphia in bright blue Luxe jackets, picking up and delivering people’s cars wherever users are, will all be converted from independent contractors to traditional employees.

That’s a move that will cost Luxe, as well as other hot startups that are reverting to doing things the old-fashioned way (at least in part) amid a mess of lawsuits over the status of workers in the on-demand economy. But they stand to gain a lot in return.

Many Silicon Valley companies have followed in Uber’s tracks and developed business models that assume their armies of workers will be treated as contractors. While the brass can’t legally tell contractors when to be on the clock, how to do their job or what to wear, they also don’t have to pay them overtime or guarantee them minimum wage or remit payroll taxes. The savings for companies is huge—probably in the billions per year for a business like Uber.

But while traditional employees cost more, employers get to exercise far more control over them, telling them precisely what to do and how to do it and, for that matter, in what color and style of outfit.

“It has to do with controlling the user experience,” says Luxe CEO Curtis Lee of why they are “making the switch” two years after the service started in San Francsico.” After a while you realize that some of the trade-offs you were making weren’t really good trade-offs.”

Under the contractor model, Lee says, the leaders at Luxe hadn’t been able to schedule workers for unpopular hours like late nights on Friday and Saturday; they could only bribe them to come online with higher rates of pay, as Uber does with surge pricing. They couldn’t provide thorough training or demand that they be considerate of other valets. “Now we can actually say, ‘Hey, you need to address the customer in a certain manner,'” Lee says.

Kevin Gibbon, CEO of San Francisco-based Shyp, says they made the same change earlier this summer because they wanted more “quality control” over couriers responding to on-demand shipping orders. Sometimes the closest courier wouldn’t feel like doing a job, so users would be left waiting for a more willing courier who was 30 minutes away. Other times couriers would respond to a request and then refuse to take whatever the user wanted to ship, perhaps because it was too unwieldy. Under a contractor model, there wasn’t much they could do about that. “As a contractor you have the right to accept or reject a job,” Gibbon says. As employees, part of the job description can include accepting all requests.

As an employer, Shyp will have to reimburse employees for job-related expenses like gas and car maintenance. Managers will have to make sure workers are taking breaks. Yet Gibbon hopes that they’ll also get more loyalty from couriers, who will feel more attachment to the company and will be more likely to stick around—saving Shyp from onboarding someone new and gaining them the productivity of a more experienced courier. People who want more a career path and less of a temporary gig might be attracted to working for them instead of dozens of other startups, he says.

Both Gibbon and Lee deny that the slew of worker-status suits against companies like Uber, Lyft and delivery company Postmates have anything to do with their decisions to abandon the contractor model. But plenty of startups may look at a company like Homejoy and see a cautionary tale. The on-demand cleaning service recently put up its mop for good, saying the “deciding factor” was four lawsuits it was fighting over worker classification.

One of the companies fighting a class-action suit is Instacart, a rapidly growing $2-billion startup that facilitates on-demand grocery delivery. When the business started, most of their contractors were both shopping for groceries and then delivering them, but over time those jobs have split. While some workers still do both jobs, many either spend all their time shopping in a store or out delivering the bags. Instacart recently announced that after a successful pilot, they would be offering some in-store shoppers the chance to become employees.

“We quickly learned that there were a lot of improvements and efficiencies with this new model,” says Andrea Saul, VP of communications, who could not comment on the pending lawsuit. “Shoppers got better and more accurate at picking items, so we had fewer order issues. Shoppers also got faster at picking items, so we had more on time deliveries.”

Instacart also noticed a better retention rate among those granted employee status and found them easier to integrate into the company culture. “Ultimately, even though the model was costlier for us, the change improved our customer’s experience,” says Saul. The lawyers pursuing the case applauded the change but say it doesn’t affect the years of expenses, for instance, they believe are due to more than 10,000 workers. Those delivering groceries continue to shell out for their own gas and car maintenance.

The main argument that companies like Uber make is that forcing them to classify their drivers—or cleaners or delivery people—as employees would force them to do away with the freedom and flexibility that attracts many workers to the on-demand economy. Contractors get to work as much as they want when they want. “If I don’t want to go out one night because my stomach’s upset or there’s a Game of Thrones marathon on or my cats are being really cuddly, I’m just not going to go out,” says Chicago-based Christopher Gutierrez, who loves driving for Lyft. “I can’t have middle management telling me things and having to abide by different codes.”

In a recent motion fighting a class action suit, Uber’s lawyers said they might be forced to change their entire business model, making drivers work in set shifts and requiring that drivers work only for Uber.

The smaller companies making this change say they’ll be able to retain flexible hours. Luxe’s Lee says they’ll set no maximum or minimum valets have to work or tell part-time workers they can’t also work for Lyft. While he expects more companies to follow in their footsteps, he also says that he doesn’t believe that the traditional employment model works for every company. Like a growing chorus of Silicon Valley disrupters and academics, he believers America should rethink employment.

“There are two old paradigms that were created long, long ago in a different world,” he says. “There really needs, eventually, at some point, to be maybe like a third classification.” The great unknown is what, even if there was the political will to create such a thing, that third category would look like.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated when Luxe announced a change in the employment status of its workers. It was July 30.

TIME safety

FOMO Is Making Teens Terrible Drivers

The pressure to be "always on" is leading young people to take their eyes off the road

A frightening amount of drivers will fess up to texting while driving. One recent survey found that 70% of people will admit to using their smartphones at the wheel. Now a new study goes beyond bad behaviors to investigate the motivations behind them. When it comes to teen drivers at least, it appears the culprit is an ascendant cultural plague: FOMO.

FOMO, an acronym for fear of missing out, is not just another cloying bit of slang, report Liberty Mutual Insurance and the non-profit SADD, an acronym for Students Against Destructive Decisions. In their study of 1,622 high school juniors and seniors around the country, teen drivers said they feel pressure to respond immediately to texts even while driving and that they can’t help but peek at their phones when notifications pop up in their apps. The expectations of their “always on” lifestyles, the researchers say, have “potentially deadly consequences.”

“Today’s hyper-connected teens … may be more plugged into their devices than the actual driving task,” says William Horrey, principal research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, in a statement. Teens may struggle to attend to everything they should on the road even without a smartphone, he says, because they are less experienced drivers. Once a device is thrown into the mix, messages and updates and videos and tweets become additional competitors for their attention, along with the radio, the climate controls or the hundred things happening outside the car.

In the study released Tuesday, more than half of teens said they text while driving in order to keep their parents updated and about one-fifth of them said they believe their parents expect a response within a single minute, even when they are at the wheel. (For their part, nearly 60% of 1,000 parents also surveyed for the study said they do not have a set expectation for response times.) About half of teens said they text more when they’re in the car alone than when others are in the car with them. The most popular apps they said they used while driving break down as follows:

  • Snapchat: 38%
  • Instagram: 20%
  • Twitter: 17%
  • Facebook: 12%
  • YouTube: 12%

The list highlights that, like older drivers, teenagers aren’t just texting while driving. They’re watching videos and taking selfies.

The feeling that they must like an Instagram photo or reply to a Facebook comment the moment it’s posted not only makes teenagers distracted, the researchers say, but may contribute to their general fatigue. In their survey, 58% of teens said they had either fallen asleep or nearly fallen asleep at the wheel, and about half of them said they get only three to six hours of sleep per night during the week, often because they’re up staring into their smartphone screens. The effects of driving while sleepy, the researchers point out, are similar to those of driving under the influence; 24 hours without sleep can be the equivalent of three cocktails.

SADD was founded to stop young people from drinking and driving but has expanded its mission to combat an array of things that undermine young people’s health and safety. Their experts suggest parents act on data like this by talking to their kids, making it clear that it’s fine not to respond while they’re en route somewhere and making sure they get a decent amount of shuteye each night. “Today’s parents are juggling their own busy schedules, and too often young drivers’ risky habits go unrecognized,” says SADD’s Stephen Gray Wallace in a statement.

It appears they should also continue to pound away at the message being trumpeted by everyone from trauma centers to wireless carriers: It’s dangerous to use your phone while driving, and despite how you might feel at the time, whatever it is can wait. Nearly 90% of the teens who said they use apps on the road also said they consider themselves “safe” drivers, the study found, as did 60% of those who make calls. While many said they’re texting with purpose—to coordinate an event or update a friend—nearly 20% say they text while driving “just for fun.”

“It’s critical that parents focus on pinpointing these dangerous driving habits early on,” says Wallace, “and have frequent conversations with their children about what safe driving really means.”

TIME People

Uber Wants Your Parents to Be Drivers If They Can Use a Smartphone

senior woman hands on steering wheel
Getty Images

The new economy is welcoming older Americans with open arms

“Companies don’t hire 50-year-olds. They just don’t.”

So says 50-year-old Sherry Singer. After decades of being a professional matchmaker, Singer wanted to change gears and start a non-profit, but still needed to pay the rent in L.A. Feeling she had few places to turn in the traditional job market, she looked to a more disruptive space: the booming on-demand economy led by Uber. Singer, who has now worked several of these freelancing jobs that didn’t exist a few years ago, found she could land a gig within a week.

Agism might be rampant in Silicon Valley, but some of the Bay Area’s leading companies are now actively trying to engage the senior crowd, recognizing the huge potential of experienced workers and responsible adults.

On Thursday, Uber announced a partnership with Life Reimagined, an organization under the AARP umbrella that exists to help older people figure out “what’s next?” after life transitions. The same day, Airbnb released data aimed at “celebrating” older hosts and guests, amid their executives attending summits on aging around the country.

“To overlook them participating in new activities would be really short-sighted,” says Airbnb’s Anita Roth, who attended a recent conference on aging hosted by the White House.

When these companies were startups that didn’t know how long they might survive, being short-sighted may have made sense. New tech companies have been started by young people who hire their young friends to help create solutions to problems they’re encountering in their own young lives. Their first customers are often their young, early-adopting friends who live in the Bay Area. But with valuations north of $25 billion, these “startups” are focusing on expansions into a more untapped demographic, which also happens to be huge and growing.

By 2032, Americans over the age of 65 will outnumber those under the age of 15. While bands of young companies are starting to pay more respect to the buying power of this demographic, Uber’s new effort is about recognizing their potential as workers. Life Reimagined bills itself as a helping hand for any adult in need of some direction—whether that person is a 42-year-old divorcee, 55-year-old empty nester or 66-year-old retiree bored nearly to death. Their mission isn’t just about helping people find new jobs or careers, but that’s often involved for participants who range from their late 30s to early 70s.

“The reality is there are far more adults looking for work than venues that are seeking to hire them,” says Emilio Pardo, Life Reimagined’s president. Their effort with Uber is explicitly targeting the “40-plus” crowd. The rideshare company said they don’t have a particular goal for how many drivers they hope to recruit.

Uber already has hundreds of thousands drivers coming onto their platform worldwide every month and expects perhaps another hundred thousand join their ranks in the U.S. over the next few years. Still, says Uber executive David Richter, they need to actively recruit. “We have the high-class problem of ever-increasing demand,” he says.

Uber previously engaged in targeted demographic outreach by trying to sell veterans on becoming drivers. The theory was that many veterans are task-oriented, disciplined and also looking for a healthy outlet “to bring those traits to bear,” says Richter. Those drivers turned out to get higher-than-average ratings; Uber hopes to repeat those results by capitalizing on older drivers who might provide a “more cautious, reliable ride.” According to a white paper released in January, Uber drivers are more likely to be young, female and highly educated than taxi drivers or chauffeurs. Still, about half of them are already over the age of 39.

What about the stereotype that grandma is a haphazard driver who goes everywhere with her blinker on and can operate a smartphone about as well as nuclear submarine? Ken Smith and Martha Deevy, experts from Stanford’s Center on Longevity, generally have a positive attitude about older people driving for Uber, saying that the flexibility those jobs provide will likely be attractive to retirees who need income but want flexible schedules. They also point out that if age 40 is the starting point, that means “there are 30 unambiguously safe years there.” If you look at fatal crash statistics, they point out, you could argue that getting into a car with a 65-year-old is safer than doing so with a driver who is less than 30.

Smartphones are required to do the job of being an Uber driver—as well as most new jobs in the on-demand economy—because it involves accepting and completing requests for rides through the Uber app. Just over half of 50- to 64-year-olds own smartphones, according to Pew, but those numbers are going up. In 2012, only 34% of them did. And, Richter says, new drivers can always lease a smartphone from Uber if needed.

The Center on Longevity is a leading organization dedicated to trying to figure out how Americans can all lead better, longer lives, a crucial mission given that our life expectancies have jumped 20 years since 1925. Airbnb worked with the group to develop a survey to learn more about their older users. Turns out, about one million of Airbnb’s guests and hosts are over 60. Considering 25 million people used Airbnb to find accommodations in the past year, that leaves a lot of room for growth, especially among a demographic that is more likely to own their own home. Like Uber’s veteran drivers, Airbnb’s older hosts also tend to get better reviews than the general population, Airbnb says. The majority of those hosts are either retirees or empty-nesters who start renting out rooms for the extra money; according to Airbnb’s survey, 49% of them are on a fixed income. But, Roth says, many people who come to the platform for the money end up staying for the social engagement and “renewed sense of purpose.” Isolation among older Americans, Life Reimagined’s Pardo says, “is fatal.”

Of course, the sharing and on-demand economies are not without their uncertainties and pitfalls. Lawsuits are alleging that companies like Uber are exploiting their workers, and cities like San Francisco are hotly debating how much home-sharing to allow. Though 50-year-old Singer continues to work for an on-demand ride company, she’s also a lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against Postmates, an on-demand delivery service for which she used to be a courier. The business models of these companies may have to change, but the fact that companies can benefit from giving older Americans more opportunities and attention will remain. “People are in a moment in America where either they can’t retire, don’t want to retire or they’re retired but they’re not done yet,” says Pardo. “It’s all about using the latest technology to actually open up a new opportunity, to give you options.”

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