TIME privacy

What Uber Still Won’t Say About Your Data

Travis Kalanick, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc., gestures as he speaks during the Institute of Directors (IOD) annual convention at the Royal Albert Hall in London, U.K., on Oct. 3, 2014.
Travis Kalanick, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc., gestures as he speaks during the Institute of Directors (IOD) annual convention at the Royal Albert Hall in London, U.K., on Oct. 3, 2014. Chris Ratcliffe—Bloomberg/Getty Images

A privacy audit left some questions unanswered

Uber, the massively popular car-hailing company, has acquired a reputation for being overly cavalier about data privacy. Last November, Uber vice president Emil Michael suggested investigating journalists critical of Uber to find dirt in their “personal lives.” A venture capitalist said his private location data was broadcast to a large audience at a Chicago Uber launch party. And a Buzzfeed reporter in November was tracked on her way to an interview with New York’s top Uber executive.

Uber has since refocused its attention on riders’ privacy, rewording its data policy and hiring an outside attorney to conduct an investigation.

“At Uber, protecting the personal information of riders is a core responsibility and company value,” said Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in a Friday statement. “Delivering on that value means that privacy is woven into every facet of our business, from the design of new products to how we interact with riders, drivers and the public at large.”

The results of that audit were released Friday. The investigation, led by Harriet Pearson, a Washington, D.C. attorney at Hogan Lovells with an impressive history of arbitrating privacy and security issues, agreed with Kalanick’s own assessment: Uber has a strong privacy policy. Her six-week investigation at Uber involved reviewing hundreds of documents and interviewing Uber’s leadership. It ultimately resulted in an exculpatory report that Pearson called “comprehensive.”

“In our view, Uber has dedicated significantly more resources to privacy at this point in its age as a company given its sector and size than other companies that we’ve observed,” said Pearson in an interview with TIME. Uber is about six years old, it’s valued at more than $41 billion.

The saga has raised important questions about how private companies access our personal information, from our credit card data to our precise location. A lot of Uber’s data can be really useful: The company uses it to settle internal disputes, fix bugs or help cities plan traffic patterns, as it has done in Boston, for example.

But in the age of the Snowden National Security Agency revelations, consumers are particularly sensitive about how their personal information is used. Uber has promised to follow the report’s recommendations, such as expanding employee training and making its policies more transparent. But the audit still left some questions unanswered, according to Bruce Schneier a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

“I saw nothing in their statements” to alleviate privacy concerns, says Schneier of Uber’s report. “Anytime you put this kind of surveillance power in peoples hand, they look up their enemies and friends… If the culture is not, ‘we don’t do this,’ than you do it.”

Here’s what we still want to know more about.

How many employees at Uber can see my personal data?

Uber says access is limited to employees who have a reason to need it, like those investigating fraud, answering user-driver inquiries or conducting trip analyses, said Katherine Tassi, Uber’s managing counsel for privacy, in an interview. But Tassi doesn’t have an exact figure.

“There’s no one particular number of employees that have access to user data,” she said.

How does Uber prevent its employees from looking at my data?

Uber gives employees access to customer data based on their responsibilities, while others are locked out through technical controls. “We noticed those kinds of controls at various levels” at Uber, said Pearson.

The report indicates Uber uses a combination of passwords, informal rules and employee monitoring to restrict access. In any case, according to Pearson, the company has a well-developed system for monitoring who is accessing your data and when.

So has Uber explained its recent privacy missteps?

Not fully. “We’re not going to comment on those specific instances that were in the press, but in general, we’re an organization of human beings and human beings make mistakes,” says Tassi. Pearson says her investigation only examined Uber’s privacy program and its structure, not particular incidents. So we don’t actually know how common it is for Uber employees to tap into your data, despite the company’s policy.

Do Uber employees ever get in trouble for doing fishy things with users’ data?

Uber won’t say. We know that Uber “disciplined” New York executive Josh Mohrer in November for tracking that Buzzfeed reporter’s ride, but we’re not sure how. Other than that, we don’t have any evidence Uber employees committed any other privacy violations.

Are Uber employees taught not to spy on me?

Uber talks informally with its employees about protecting customer data. Employees get “communications” from the senior team on handling riders’ data, Tassi said, and new Uber hires have to accept the company’s data access policy.

But when pressed, Uber didn’t say whether there’s a formal training program for employees, merely saying it was “in early stages of development.” That training “needs further formalization,” said Tassi.

TIME Smartphones

Why Microsoft Would Invest in An Android Startup

The Latest Mobile Apps At The App World Multi-Platform Developer Show
A logo for Google Inc.'s Android operating system is displayed on an advertising sign during the Apps World Multi-Platform Developer Show in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. Chris Ratcliffe—Bloomberg / Getty Images

The potential investment hints at a larger battle to grab real estate on your phone's homescreen

Microsoft is reportedly set to invest in a startup building its own version of the Google-owned Android mobile operating system.

Microsoft will hold a minority stake in Cyanogen, which rewrites Android’s open-source code and offers it as a souped-up alternative to Google’s version of the platform, the Wall Street Journal reports. Some 50 million devices currently run Cyanogen’s Android, while CEO Kirt McMaster says his army of 9,000 volunteer programmers are reshaping the software into a superior product.

“We’re going to take Android away from Google,” McMaster told the Journal.

That raises a few intriguing question about Microsoft’s investment — such as:

Why should Microsoft care about this startup?

Google currently dominates the mobile market. Roughly 84% of the world’s phones come pre-installed with Android, according to estimates from IDC. That means a vast majority of phones come pre-packaged with Google apps. Unbox the phone, and there they are the home screen. The user can always download rival apps, but who’s going to take the time to download Microsoft’s apps when Google’s are already there?

How did Google come to dominate the home screen?

Google gives away Android’s source code for free, even to rival device manufacturers. But the giveaway comes with a few strings attached. If device makers want access to Google’s most popular apps, such as Search and the Google Play store, they have historically had to sign agreements to place those apps “immediately adjacent” to the home screen, according to signed contracts reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Cyanogen’s version of Android, however, would release device makers from those contractual obligations. That would mean if Microsoft made hardware running Cyanogen’s Android, it would be freed up to put its on apps front and center.

Can’t Microsoft just puts its apps on the phones it already makes?

Sure, but Microsoft’s Windows Phones comprise only 3% of the global market. That’s why Microsoft has recently unleashed its flagship apps for iPhone and Android phones. Apple iPhone and iMac users have already downloaded Word, Powerpoint and Excel more than 80 million times to date. Now that its apps are in a polygamous relationship with rival devices, Microsoft might want to ensure they get front and center on all devices.

Will Google let that happen?

Probably not without a fight. The whole purpose of the free Android giveaway is to route as many users as possible to its search pages, where it gets millions of eyeballs on its advertisements — and Google’s ad business, especially on mobile, is already showing weaknesses.

TIME Sports

How Advertisers Conquered the Super Bowl

Super Bowl II - Green Bay Packers vs Oakland Raiders - January 14, 1968
Oakland Raiders quarterback Daryle Lamonica (3) rolls out of the pocket during Super Bowl II, a 33-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Jan. 14, 1968, at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Fla. Fred Roe—NFL/Getty Images

Advertisers are not just buying time between the plays, but also influence over the entire event

Perhaps the earliest recorded gripe about a Super Bowl commercial ran in TIME Magazine in 1968, shortly after 70 million Americans had tuned into Super Bowl II.

“One ‘promo’ actually ran right through a kickoff,” wrote TIME’s critic. “Paid commercials also got in the way—but it was easy to see why. Commercial time for the Super Bowl telecast sold for an unprecedented $150,000 a minute.”

Cue the gasps.

By 1977, commercial time sold for $250,000 a minute. It cleared the $1 million mark by 1985. Today the going rate is $9 million. At these astronomical sums, advertisers are not just buying time between the plays, but also influence over the entire event. TIME’s earliest Super Bowl critic may have spotted their clout early on, but really he had no idea what was to come.

Advertisers have nudged the game’s location, kick-off times and duration in their favor. Pontiac, Mich., might have seemed like an unlikely location for Super Bowl XVI in 1982. “The Midwestern city (pop. 76,000) is a near disaster area,” wrote a reporter for TIME, but the city had powerful backers; a “full roster of ad-firm chieftains” from Michigan’s automotive sector. They reminded the Super Bowl Committee of their “dedication” to the game, a not so subtle reference to their $1 billion outpouring of ad revenue. “It was like whacking a donkey with a two-by-four,” one Detroit-based ad executive told TIME. “It got their attention.”

By 1986, NBC would pay homage to advertisers with a moment of silence. Halfway through the pre-game show of Super Bowl XX, at 4 p.m., the talking heads would fall silent. “As a clock onscreen ticks off the seconds, viewers will be able to race to the refrigerator or bathroom without missing any of the action — or the commercials,” wrote TIME.

“The medium that once simply covered America’s favorite sports has virtually taken them over,” TIME had opined by 1990. By then, the fusion of sports and commerce was unmistakable. “As the money keeps growing, so does TV’s determination to get the most from its investment by orchestrating the show for maximum viewer appeal…Starting next season, pro football will add two more teams to the play-offs and, by the fall of 1992, two more weeks to the season. That will probably push the Super Bowl into February, which just happens to be a ratings ’sweeps’ period.”

Before long, the commercialization of the Super Bowl had become received wisdom, barely worth arguing. TIME’s writers turned their attention to the commercials themselves as cultural events. The classic Mac ad, in which a woman hurls a sledgehammer through a big screen TV broadcast of a barking dictator, “established the Super Bowl as the unofficial high holiday of capitalism,” wrote TIME’s TV critic James Poniewozik in 2000, “the launch pad for baroque, high-profile ads that today generate more excitement than the game.”

Commercials even launched careers and cottage industries. The original 1970’s choristers who sang Coca-Cola’s blockbuster anthem, ”I’d like to teach the world to sing,” for a $50 fee, reprised their roles at the 1990 Super Bowl. They brought their children in tow, and this time demanded residuals.

Spuds MacKenzie, Budweiser’s canine mascot, spawned a mini craze for bull terriers. Some specimens fetched prices upwards of $1,200. “Inquiries are up 75% at Jerry’s Perfect Pet Shop in Dallas,” TIME reported in 1987. “Customers in St. Louis are so bullish that Petland had to put the dogs on back order.”

TIME’s Jay Chiat imagined the future of advertising for Super Bowl LIV, in 2020, where advertising suffuses every inch of the screen. “The Microsoft Mustangs are playing the GM Generals at Cisco Stadium in a town called Ciscoville–formerly known as Philadelphia,” he wrote. “Corporations will pay big money for the right to digitize logos onto the T shirts of the fans in the stands.”

It may sound far-fetched, but then consider how far commercials have come since TIME’s original 1968 complaint that commercials “got in the way.” Two decades later Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche would urge his team, shortly before they took the field at Super Bowl XXIII, ”Go for that shaving-cream commercial you’ve always wanted.”

TIME Research

Why You’re Less Likely to Die in a Car Than Ever Before

Traffic
Heavy automobile traffic on the Harbor Freeway is viewed at sunset on Jan. 27, 2012 in Los Angeles. George Rose—Getty Images

'Motor vehicles are safer than they ever have been in the past'

The chances of dying in a car crash in a new vehicle have declined dramatically in recent years to their lowest point ever, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Improvements to vehicle safety technology since the mid-1980s saved 7,700 lives in the United States in 2012 alone, the study found.

“There’s all the bad news about recalls, which make it sound like vehicles are getting less safe,” says IIHS president Adrian Lund. “What these results show is that motor vehicles are safer than they ever have been in the past. This is a huge reduction of people dying as occupants of motor vehicles in crashes.”

The study, which looked at data on deaths in 2011 model year vehicles, found that no one died in nine vehicle models. The death rate per million registered vehicle years, a number that represents how many people died per the number of years a car is registered to be on the road, declined to 28 for 2011 model cars. That rate was 87 for cars made a decade earlier, Lund says.

The report attributed much of that improvement to changes in technology. Electronic stability control, for instance, has been incorporated into many vehicles and prevented deaths when vehicles roll over. The effect of the technology has been particularly noticeable in SUVs. Once among the most dangerous cars on the road, many SUVs are now among the safest vehicles. Six of the nine vehicles without a death were SUVs.

Lund says he anticipates that car safety will improve along with the introduction of new technology in the near future, but he also acknowledges that movements by governments and regulators to cut down on traffic deaths have the potential to reduce traffic deaths dramatically. In particular, Vision Zero—a movement adopted by various cities and countries aimed at eliminating such deaths—has the potential to save lives, he says.

“If we’re really going to get to zero, then we’re really going to need action on a lot of fronts,” he says. “We don’t have to wait just for vehicle technology to achieve Vision Zero.”

Nonetheless, Lund notes that car manufacturers are “closing in on their target” of making their cars free of death and serious injury.

The nine models that were fatality-free were Audi A4 (four-wheel drive), Honda Odyssey, Kia Sorento (two-wheel drive), the Lexus RX 350 (four-wheel drive), Mercedes-Benz GL-Class (four-wheel drive), Subaru Legacy (four-wheel drive), Toyota Highlander hybrid (four-wheel drive), Toyota Sequoia (four-wheel drive) and Volvo XC90 (four-wheel drive).

Three cars had more more than 100 deaths per million registered vehicle years: Kia Rio, Nissan Versa sedan and Hyundai Accent.

MONEY

The Shady Story Behind Soaring Super Bowl Ticket Prices

The exterior of University of Phoenix Stadium
The exterior of University of Phoenix Stadium, host of the 2015 Super Bowl, in Phoenix, Arizona. Gene Lower—AP

Allegations of collusion and marketplace manipulation are being thrown around as average asking prices for Super Bowl tickets topped a staggering $9,000 this week.

This wasn’t how we were told things would play out.

Generally speaking, every year, there’s a predictable arc to Super Bowl ticket prices on the secondary market. The market rate for Super Bowl tickets tends to be high (perhaps three times face value) in the days before the AFC and NFC Championship games, and then once it’s clear who will play in the Super Bowl, there’s usually a price spike as fans clamber for the chance to see their team win the title. After this initial wave of purchases subsides, prices tend to drop as Super Bowl Sunday nears and sellers don’t want to get stuck with seats at the last minute.

Understandably, the trajectory and peak for pricing is a little different every year, depending on which teams are squaring off and where the game is being played. Projections for the 2015 Super Bowl’s ticket prices called for seats to be less expensive than usual, supposedly because of “fatigue” among fans of the two teams in the game, the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, who have both played and won it all over the past decade.

Yet the price drop almost everyone expected over the past couple of weeks never took place. Soon after the AFC and NFC Championship games ending, asking prices were relatively cheap, with the average ticket selling for around $2,900 and the cheapest tickets available for roughly $1,900. At the start of this week, the average list price was up to $6,500 and the “cheap” seats were at least $4,200.

By Thursday afternoon, $7,100 was the least expensive ticket posted for sale on secondary market sites such as TiqIQ, while StubHub alerted the media that the “current average list price for the Super Bowl is $9,484.37, which is up 282.43% since last year at this time ($2,480.06).”

That’s at the sites that actually had access to tickets. As of midday on Friday, popular secondary ticket exchanges like Vivid Seats and Razor Gator had posted messages to the effect of “Sorry, but we currently have no tickets available for this event.” StubHub listed fewer than 300 seats available for purchase, with asking prices ranging from roughly $7,500 to $40,000. The NFL’s official Ticket Exchange by Ticketmaster site listed 109 tickets for sale, with individual seats starting at $6,500. Anyone interested in a pair of seats together would have to pay at least $7,800 per ticket. Face value for Super Bowl tickets ranges from $800 to $1,900.

What caused the ticket supply to shrink and prices to go totally bonkers? In its Thursday release about skyrocketing prices, StubHub accused a handful of unnamed large ticket sellers in control of most of the Super Bowl ticket inventory of colluding with each other and manipulating the marketplace. “A consolidation of supply has allowed sellers to manipulate the marketplace and made it near impossible for any last minute fans to attend the game,” StubHub global head of communications Glenn Lehrman said in the release.

At the start of this week, the explanation for the unexpected rise in prices was that many brokers had been “short-selling” tickets, based on the assumption that the previously established pattern would hold true and prices would fall as Super Bowl Sunday neared. To short-sell tickets, “a broker typically lists tickets in a generic section of the stadium and doesn’t disclose exactly where the seats are until the Wednesday before the game,” as a post by ESPN’s Darren Rovell explained. “The idea for the brokers is to take money from ticket buyers when the tickets are at a higher price after the conference title games, then actually buy the tickets days later as the prices start to come down.”

Apparently, tons of brokers hopped on board this scheme of selling tickets on “spec”—only when the time came to buy actual seats later on as promised, the going prices in the marketplace were far higher than brokers had anticipated. In the investing world, they call that a “short squeeze.”

StubHub says that the collusion of a few large ticket sellers has limited supply to “essentially short-squeeze brokers and make the marketplaces” such as StubHub and VividSeats “buy up the supply at upwards of 4x market value.”

One clear end result is that unless you’re rich or the Mayor of Glendale, Ariz., the host town for this year’s Super Bowl, you’re basically out of luck in terms of getting tickets to the game. Everyday fans are the big losers in all of this. On the other hand, the ticket sellers being accused of rigging the game—the ones who allegedly held back supply and pushed prices skyward—have been cashing in over the past few days.

As for secondary market sites like StubHub and TiqIQ, as well as the smaller brokers whose sales take place on these sites, the results are somewhat muddled. “At the end of the day, many brokers took a big hit from this, while very few made a profit,” TiqIQ’s Chris Matcovitch said in an email. In some cases, the secondary market sites have felt forced to pay far above market rates in order to save face and not have brokers breaking the promise of tickets sold on spec. According to TiqIQ, overall ticket prices on its site have been average as far as Super Bowls go, though the volume of sales is down “significantly.”

“You will be hearing horror stories all weekend,” said Matcovich. “People without tickets, brokers folding, lawsuits, etc.”

So we’re got another NFL scandal on our hands. How surprising.

TIME Media

Why Jay-Z’s New Music Service Won’t Beat Spotify

Celebrites Attend The Miami Heat Vs Brooklyn Nets Game - May 12, 2014
Jay-Z attends the Miami Heat vs Brooklyn Nets game at Barclays Center on May 12, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. James Devaney—GC Images

Most people don't want to pay more for higher audio quality

Business mogul Jay-Z has a new acquisition to add to his collection of night clubs, clothing lines and luxury champagnes. The rapper’s company, Project Panther Bidco, is picking up European streaming music service Aspiro for $56 million, according to Reuters.

But while the Oslo-based service has managed to rack up 580,000 paying subscribers in Europe with a Spotify-like service, the company’s bet on high-priced, high-fidelity music streaming isn’t likely to take the world by storm.

Back in October, Aspiro launched Tidal, a new service for the U.S. and U.K. that offers millions of songs in a high-fidelity, lossless FLAC format, with essentially the same audio quality as CDs. Tidal boasts a library similar in scale to Spotify’s, but its tracks are higher in audio quality. That improved quality comes at a price: Tidal costs $19.99 per month, while Spotify’s ad-free version is $9.99 per month.

And if the last 15 years of the music industry’s fortunes tell us anything, it’s that people don’t want to pay more for high-quality audio files.

An entire generation of music lovers have now grown up without being regularly exposed to CD-level audio quality. Whether ripping CDs to create low-fidelity MP3s, downloading compressed audio files off of iTunes or streaming tracks from Spotify, most young music listeners have gotten used to low-bitrate listening. Audio quality on YouTube varies wildly and is often quite poor, but it’s still the most popular way for teenagers to listen to music.

Moreover, convincing people to pay $9.99 per month for music is already a tough sell, let alone $19.99 per month. Only about a fourth of Spotify’s 60 million users pay for the service, and it’s the platform with the largest paid user base by far. The industry may never convince fans to pay $120 per year (or in the case of Tidal, $240 per year) en masse considering that even at the music industry’s peak in 1999, music buyers were only spending $64 per year on songs, according to an analysis by Re/code.

(Read more: 8 Spotify tricks that will change the way you listen to music)

Of course, there is a precedent for a previously price-sensitive market suddenly being flooded with popular premium products. Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine convinced millions of consumers that their flimsy iPod earbuds weren’t good enough. They have since created a billion-dollar empire selling expensive Beats headphones that produce higher-quality sound. Like Beats, Tidal will now be helmed by a big-name music star who is also a deft marketer. Perhaps Jay-Z will find a way to make high-fidelity audio cool, too.

But with so many competitors crowding the market and offering, to the layman’s ears, more or less the same product—25 million or so songs that you can stream whenever you want—it’ll be a challenge to lure customers at a higher price. Aspiro and Tidal may find a successful niche among audiophiles, but Jay-Z’s new music service probably won’t unseat the industry’s giants.

TIME

Investors Sink Their Teeth Into Shake Shack’s IPO

Shares of Shake Shack more than doubled on the first day of trading

Shares of Shake Shack more than doubled on the first day of trading Friday, as investors feasted on a chance to get a piece of the New York burger chain before it opens hundreds of additional restaurants in the U.S.

Shake Shack’s stock was trading at around $49 per share early in Friday’s session, a roughly 133% gain above the $21 initial offering price that was set on Thursday evening. The company had initially anticipated a share price in the range of $14 to $16, but investor enthusiasm prompted the company to raise that range by $3 on Wednesday. Shares are trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “SHAK.”

A bet on Shake Shack, a fast-casual restaurant operator with just 63 global locations, is an investment in a company that could one day become the next Chipotle. Those two chains are the model that all other fast-casual chains could one day aspire to achieve. Fast-casual restaurants have menus that are filled with food that consumers perceive as healthier fare than what fast-food competitors sell, but without the table service found at casual dining chains.

Though Shake Shack is growing — generating nearly $79 million in “Shack sales” for the first nine months of 2014 — there are some worries that growth at stores that have been open for at least two years has slowed.

MORE The 17 Most Influential Burgers of All Time

Shake Shack can be seen as more thrilling investment than McDonald’s , which this week saw the resignation of its CEO after a string of poor sales. But the newer chain is also facing stiff competition from other fast-casual burger chains such as Smashburger and Five Guys. And McDonald’s, while it faces major challenges, still booked $4.8 billion in profit last year.

Burger chains are in prime position, at least when it comes to prevailing trends in the restaurant world. Nine billion servings of burgers were ordered at U.S. restaurants and foodservice outlets last year, an increase of 3% from 2013, despite weakness in traffic at other restaurants, according to research firm NPD Group. That indicates the burger chains can court rising consumer interest in their core menus.

History was on Shake Shack’s side when it debuted on Friday. The fast-casual chains that have debuted on the market the past decade have reported an average gain of 95% on their first day of trading, according to IPO ETF manager Renaissance Capital. If Shake Shack’s early pop holds until the end of the day, it will have reported the best first-day performance among the seven restaurant chains that have gone public over the last 10 years.

Of the now seven fast-casual chains Renaissance Capital tracked, only Chipotle has been on the stock market for greater than two years. It listed in 2006 and has gained over 3,100% from its IPO price, suggesting investors are willing to place a bet on what could be the next huge concept in the category.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Body Image

Bye, Bye, Barbie: 2015 Is the Year We Abandon Unrealistic Beauty Ideals

Cali Girl Barbie waves from the front seat of a Chevy SSR du
Cali Girl Barbie waves from the front seat of a Chevy Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

As Barbie sales figures continue to drop, unrealistic ideals are losing clout both in the toy and fashion world

It may be time for Mattel to roll out Retirement Barbie. Friday morning, the toy-maker announced that the doll’s sales dropped 16% in 2014, marking Barbie’s third consecutive year of falling earnings.

“The reality is, we just didn’t sell enough Barbie dolls,” CEO Bryan Stockton explained to investors last January, following Mattel’s disappointing 13% drop for 2013. The decline of the company’s premier product lead in part to Stockton’s resignation on Monday. But a corporate shakeup might not be enough to counteract the almost 56-year-old doll’s waning allure. The problem might not be sales strategies, but rather the doll and the impossibly slim body ideals she represents.

The push for more realistic, “body positive” images of girls has been gaining momentum over the least year and not just in toys. In 2014, Barbie sales plummeted, while a doll with an average woman’s proportions gained viral success; full-bodied models were integrated into high fashion campaigns without fanfare; e-retailer ModCloth announced an anticipated doubling of its sales after introducing plus sizes; the single All About That Bass which celebrates curvy bodies became such a commercial success that, no, you will never get it out of your head; and Kim Kardashian’s famously ample butt broke the internet.

After decades of false starts, maybe we are finally ready to move away from unattainably slim ideals.

Fashion: Plus Size Integration Isn’t a Passing Trend

When we think of lingerie ads, winged Victoria’s Secret Angels flutter through our minds. But in November, alone, three high fashion institutions displayed a fuller understanidng of feminine beauty.

Seductively posed in a rubber leotard, Candice Huffine debuted as the first plus-size model to be featured in Pirella’s prestigious calendar in December:

A Vogue online gallery featured sexy lingerie starred women with F rather than B cup sizes. “Going into this, we assumed that the beautiful, delicate, lacy bras that we all prefer would only be available in the smaller cup sizes, but we were thrilled to find a real wealth of options for a huge variety of body shapes,” editor Jorden Bickham tells TIME in an email.

And Calvin Klein used Myla Dalbesio in its “Perfectly Fit” underwear campaign. Dalbesio, a size 10, told Elle, “It’s not like [Calvin Klein] released this campaign and were like ‘Whoa, look, there’s this plus-size girl in our campaign.’ They released me in this campaign with everyone else; there’s no distinction. It’s not a separate section for plus-size girls.” (This interview incited misappropriated backlash against CK when the Twitterverse thought Dalbesio was incorrectly cast under the “plus size” category — she wasn’t).

While the internet reacted to the seamless integration of fuller bodied models into these campaigns, the models were presented by designers without fanfare.

“There were no big tamborines, no big calling out of the size thing,” Emme, widely regarded as the first plus-size supermodel (even though she eschews the moniker), tells TIME. “It’s just so old. Saying ‘Oh she’s plus size, yippee!’ and making a big deal of that.”

Tess Holliday

Although there was certainly fanfare when size 22 model Tess Holliday was signed to MiLK Model Management last week — making her the first model of her size to ever be represented by a major agency.

“It was unheard of, I never even tried to get with an agency,” Holliday, 29, tells TIME. “One of my friends even said, ‘Isn’t it crazy that you’re in the news for being the biggest plus size model when you’re the true size of a plus size woman.'” Holliday says that the average plus size model is between size 8 and 10, even though the average plus size woman is bigger. “There has always been an issue with [designers] using smaller plus size models and if they wanted one who was a little bit bigger or curvier, they would pad her because they said they couldn’t find good quality models above a size 16.”

In the past, Holliday was barred from castings due to her size. But in the past week, Holliday says at least designers who refused to work with her in the past have now called to book her for a job. “If they want me then they’ll pay for it.”

Many of Holliday’s critics complain that she sets an unhealthy example for women, but the model notes that she is active, has a trainer, and works out at least four times a week. It should also be noted that just as skinniness does not connote healthiness, being a plus size doesn’t connote unhealthiness.

While Holliday is currently an anomaly, Muse Model Management president Conor Kennedy tells TIME that the fashion industry opening its doors to a variety of body sizes is a consistent movement rather than a “flavor in the moment” passing trend.

Vogue

“A few years ago there was a little burst where there was an Italian Vogue cover”—in which plus-size models seductively posed over… spaghetti—”and then V Magazine did a shoot, and then it tailored off,” he says. “The past two years it’s very different because there are all types of editorials. I think that the next breakthrough we are looking for are campaigns, and we’re starting to see it now.” Curvier celeb cover subjects like Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez are also changing perceptions in the fashion industry.

Kennedy has noticed increased excitement on the creative side of the industry over a diversity of sizes as a desirable aesthetic choice and greater openness in castings.

“But there’s an evolution on both sides of the spectrum,” he says. “It’s also a great thing for business.”

Retailers Finally Recognize an Untapped Market

Clothing makers are finally beginning to understand that if they increase their offerings — and we’re talking fashionable offerings rather than an increased muumuu selection — in the “plus size” category, it will be beneficial to their bottom line. With the “average” American woman wearing a size 14, that’s potentially 100 million potential customers.

“It’s a huge market and it’s totally underserved” ModCloth co-founder Susan Gregg Koder told CNBC.

When Koder decided to expand the e-retailer’s plus size division, she reached out to 1,500 vendors for help — and only 35 responded. But a year into the expansion, with 100 vendors on board, Koder told Business Insider that she expected sales to double in 2014.

According to the market research firm NPD Group, plus-size clothing sales increased 5% last year to $17.5 billion. E-retailers are taking advantage of this rise. In December, plus size fashion e-retailer ELOQUII raised $6 million in Series A funding. But brick and mortar retailers still have room for improvement.

But the quality must improve as well because, at the moment, full bodied women are searching for — but often not finding — fashionable outfits that go up to their size. Stylist Sal Perez explained the difficulties in trying to dress Rebel Wilson for her role in Pitch Perfect 2 to the New York Times.

“I am horrified by some of the clothes I find in the stores,” she said. “I don’t know anyone who enjoys wearing polyester.”

Target premiers its plus-size line

After interacting with six different designers who wouldn’t dress her for the Oscars, Melissa McCarthy decided to launch a fashion label of her own that will offer both plus and “regular” size clothing.

Larger retailers are finally getting the message as well. In mid-February, Target will launch a plus-size line called Ava & Viv that is designed specifically for “the plus-size woman who loves fashion.”

“Women want to go shopping together,” Emme says. “If you eliminate the plus size department that’s always in the basement or next to maternity, and you increase the numbers of 14, 16 and 18’s, you are going to make more money than you have ever made.”

To illustrate her point, Emme recalls a plus-size fashion show she attended with her daughter at Macy’s. At the end of the show, the 13-year-old asked if Emme thought a particular dress came in her size — she didn’t see it as undesirable for a larger demographic, but as beautiful clothing displayed on a beautiful model who she would like to replicate.

“A lightbulb went off,” Emme says. “I don’t think the younger generation sees it as size. They see beauty as it is.”

The End of Barbie

New trends in toy sales serve as fiscal evidence that children also want natural, realistic beauty — rather than unattainable ideals. Barbie, who has seen her share of criticism for being an anatomically impossible mutant, is losing her clout among girls–and their parents. As people stopped buying Barbies, they crowd-funded an alternative to the tune of $500,000.

Touted as the “normal Barbie,” Lammily dolls are built to the measurements of an average woman, based on CDC data.

The “normal” Barbie, created by Nickolay Lamm, Lammily

“This is the doll people have been waiting for,” Lamm told TIME when he prepared to ship tens of thousands of dolls to eager backers before the holidays.

“She looks like a regular girl going to school,” a second grader said when she was presented with a Lammily doll.

“She’s not like other dolls,” said another. “She looks real.”

One of the reasons that Lamm was able turn the Lammily doll from a concept to an actual product was because his original sketches of the “normal Barbie” — meant to simply be an art project — went viral. Its traction online indicated to Lamm how thirsty people were to celebrate the beauty of reality.

While #thinspiration and unhealthy body ideals that promote eating disorders or worse certainly exist on social networks, an easily outraged Twitterverse is quick to call companies out for promoting body negative ideology.

People will no longer stand for Victoria’s Secret creating an advertisement that puts the wording “Perfect Body” over a slew of skinny skinny models. The company quietly changed its ads after an onslaught of social media outrage. And, some 20,000 people will sign Charge.org petitions when they find out that Old Navy charges more money for items that come in plus sizes. (The retailer didn’t fully capitulate, but it did change plus size policies.)

Holliday, who started a viral #EffYourBeautyStandards online campaign, attributes her recent signing and burgeoning career to her dedicated social media following. “People aren’t used to seeing someone who is fat and happy,” she says, which could be why her 415,000 Instagram followers so eagerly await her posts.

“It’s not a trend, really — it’s happening,” Emme says. “It’s the tipping point.”

TIME Super Bowl

McDonald’s Will Start Accepting ‘Lovin’ As Payment For Fries

According to the company's very cheesy Super Bowl ad

Last year, McDonald’s started letting customers buy meals using Apple Pay on their iPhones. But the fast food chain will start accepting a far stranger currency to pay for fries: ‘Lovin’.’

McDonald’s 2015 Super Bowl ad says that between Feb. 2 and 14, randomly selected customers will be offered the chance to do things like call their mom to say “I love you,” give someone a hug, or do a silly dance as a form of payment.

This is a part of McDonald’s revamped “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign. (The last ad in the series implied that a trip to a Play Place could help unclog bipartisan gridlock.)

TIME Companies

We’ll Soon Know More About Amazon’s Cloud Business Than Ever Before

Amazon Starts Music Streaming Service Without Universal
The Amazon.com Inc. Prime Music logo is displayed on an Apple Inc. laptop for a photograph in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, June 12, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amazon will start breaking out its cloud computing business

Amazon’s cloud business has long been more like a cumulonimbus than a cirrus — that is, not very transparent at all.

In its quarterly earnings reports, Amazon has traditionally buried its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud offerings into a category called “North America Net Sales (Other),” where it sat alongside a hodgepodge of other stuff. That made it difficult to tell how well the company’s cloud business is doing. Analysts could see the “Other” category skyrocketing (it grew 43% year-over-year last quarter) and make estimates accordingly, but they couldn’t tell with absolute certainty how much of that growth was thanks to AWS.

Now, that’s all about to change. In a conference call with investors Thursday afternoon, the company promised it will start breaking out AWS into a separate category beginning with its next earnings report, due in April.

“We just think it’s an appropriate way to look at our business in 2015,” Amazon Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak said on that call.

Szkutak is right. Cloud computing is a growing part of Amazon’s total business, with that “Other” category earning $5.4 billion in revenue last year compared to $3.7 billion in 2013. It’s also an increasingly competitive field, with rivals like Microsoft, IBM and Google all ramping up their efforts in the category. Amazon investors, then, ought to know exactly how well AWS is doing.

That Amazon is ready to break out AWS into a separate category is also a sign it’s confident in the numbers. Perhaps as an early tease, it let at least one boastful fact slip on Thursday’s earnings call: More than 1 million customers use AWS as of the end of 2014, from individuals to big web companies like Netflix and Pinterest. That’s a nice milestone to brag about before getting into the nitty-gritty later this year.

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