Posts tagged Silicon

Has Silicon Valley Reached Peak Hoodie?

I hear a man strolling by the Original Stitch pop-up stand on San Francisco’s 4th and Townsend nonchalantly say, “That’s a nice shirt.”

The Original Stitch pop-up stand.

He’s eyeing two button-ups neatly folded on a table, next to a giant Goodwill donation bin. The pop-up stand is part of last week’s #DitchTheHoodie event by Original Stitch, the startup where people can design and order their own custom dress shirts. The startup’s goal for the day? To have the good people of San Francisco donate their hoodies to Goodwill in exchange for a free button-up shirt.

The startup asks people to #DitchTheHoodie.

The “button-ups for techies” idea is not entirely novel. A whole slew of startups are attempting to monetize the stereotype of Silicon Valley’s fashion-challenged males. The latest buzz around men’s fashion in San Francisco’s tech set is Black V Club, a startup that sells only black v-necks for the entrepreneur who is too busy to be bothered to pick out an outfit each day. Throw on a black v-neck, and you’re good to go.

See also: What Banana Republic’s “The Startup Guy” Collection Gets All Wrong

A button-up in exchange for a hoodie donated to Goodwill. 

An image driven by mainstream media like The Social Network movie and HBO’s Silicon Valley, and reinforced by real-life San Francisco techies, the hoodie has come to represent tech culture’s sartorial weapon of choice for the lazy coding nerd.

People gladly rid of their hoodies. 

Not to be bothered with fleeting trends and style choices, the stereotypical programmer pulls on a company tee and hoodie in the morning and scooters into work.

See also: Does Silicon Valley Look Like Silicon Valley?

A ceremonious recycling of hoodies. 

Many agree that fashion in tech could step up a notch. While the hoodie in its physical form—perfect in its light fabric and soft versatility—will never go away, the hoodie as metaphor and everything it has come to represent in Silicon Valley, is being thrown away.

I inquired those who were donating hoodies about their thoughts of other San Francisco hoodie-wearing brethren.

Richard Sim and Matt Sim discuss button-ups. 

Brothers Richard Sim and Matt Sim agree that Silicon Valley needs to get some style. They see fashion startups gaining traction. 

Matt, a customer operations specialist at Google, tells me about a friend who is renting out suits on a monthly basis. “There’s a large market for fashion in Silicon Valley,” he says.

Richard and Matt Sim with the hoodies they’re about to donate.

I ask Richard, a technical sourcer at Duran HCP, what the fashion landscape looks like in Silicon Valley. 

“Or lack thereof,” Richard replies. “You can tell who is in marketing and who is in engineering—you could point it out if you see them walking on the street. A lot of engineers look like college students who have just rolled out of bed; they wear whatever their companies give them. Let me just say this—if it’s fitted, then they’re probably not an engineer.”

Alan Fineberg in his own engineering attire. 

Alan Fineberg, an iOS engineer at Square, is actually an engineer with some fitted clothing. Surprisingly, he tells me he doesn’t think too much about his style choices, but that everyone at his company is just constantly on point in terms of fashion. 

Alan attests that good fashion is usual for working at Square. 

“People at Square are very well dressed,” says Alan, “I have even been asked if Square has a dress code. Everyone is just really design conscious and that comes out in their aesthetic and style choices.”

Liam Hausmann flashes his teal hoodie. 

“Fashion in Silicon Valley is pretty terrible,” Liam Hausmann tells me. An associate at PR firm Bateman group, Liam believes that the tech fashion sense is being glorified by certain individuals—the Zuckerbergs of the world. 

Liam thinks Silicon Valley style could use a little spice. 

“Everyone is playing into this certain aesthetic, but it’s based on something less than awesome,” says Liam, “There’s a hive mind in men’s tech fashion. There are expectations that people should be dressing a certain way. People can definitely spice their wardrobes up—its easy to dress nice.” 

Jason Park models an Original Stitch shirt. 

Jason Park, working the Original Stitch stand, believes that with tech companies and startups expanding and going global, sooner or later people will have to start dressing better. 

“Traditionally speaking, engineers don’t dress very well and we are in a city full of engineers,” says Jason, “Tech is so much a part of our society that it’s not a niche space anymore. Engineers have to talk to more people, they have more meetings, they work with more businesses. You have to learn how to dress up and stand out. But it’s not just a necessity, it’s cool to feel good.”

Images by Stephanie Chan 

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HBO’s “Silicon Valley” Is Getting More Women

The actors and creators behind the hit HBO show Silicon Valley took to Twitter Wednesday to answer questions from fans with the hashtag #AskSiliconValley. The hit show parodies the technology industry from its perch in Hollywood, but it’s beloved by techies and critics alike. 

The second season begins airing in April 2015—which seems like a long time to wait in an era of binge-watching. Until then, we’ll have to make do with the tidbits of information the cast and crew shared on Twitter. One key point: The show’s gender balance is changing for the better.

How Silicon Valley Is Really Like “Silicon Valley”

The show follows a startup named Pied Piper through its battle with Hooli, a Google-like giant. It’s a David vs. Goliath battle of algorithms, and, although humorous, the show features a number of aspects of the tech industry that are all too real—including the fashion, the absurd aspects of startup marketing, and an obsession with jokes about male genitalia

The #AskSiliconValley Twitter chat was in part a marketing ploy by HBO to get fans to purchase the first season on Apple’s iTunes, but creator Mike Judge and actors Thomas Middleditch and Kumail Nanjiani shed some light on behind-the-scenes aspects of filming and what to expect in Season Two.

Many viewers asked about the lack of women in the show, specifically in technical roles. This was a case of art mirroring life, as many big tech companies have revealed how skewed the gender ratios are in their workforces—but some hoped “Silicon Valley” could show a better vision for the industry.

So here is a bit of good news: According to Judge, two new female characters will be added to the cast. It’s unclear whether their roles will be technical. In the first season, women were mostly treated as disposable props or love interests for men—and every episode failed the Bechdel Test, a yardstick which measures movies and TV shows for meaningful female characters.

Bay Area locals have noted the show’s visual faithfulness to the real Silicon Valley, a bland realm of suburban houses and office parks. That’s because the show filmed many exterior shots in northern California.

Middleditch, the lead actor who plays awkward Pied Piper founder Richard on the show, dropped some hints about what people can expect from the upcoming season. One person suggested comedian John Hodgman should make an appearance as a relative of venture capitalist Peter Gregory. Middleditch hinted he might.

Maybe we’ll also see a glimpse of Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak. Perhaps not. Judge managed to give fans a tiny bit of hope while throwing some shade in Woz’s direction.

Nanjiani, the comedian who plays Dinesh, has some experience working as a programmer. He received a degree in computer science, and says his role on Silicon Valley playing a startup programmer is much more exciting than being an actual programmer.

If you were disappointed that the first season of Silicon Valley only lasted eight episodes, you might be excited for this: Season Two will run for 10 episodes.

Big Head, the friend of Richard who ditched Pied Piper in favor of a cushy gig at Internet giant Hooli, made a handful of cameos in the show after his startup departure. Fans of the deserter will be pleased to know that he will be back for season two.

During the season finale, the Pied Piper team developed a particular method of stimulating … well, let’s just say data to get their pitch to fly at TechCrunch Disrupt. So how long did it take the team to film that one scene?

If you haven’t seen the show yet, you have plenty of time to catch up before its April 2015 return. And we’ll be recapping every episode on ReadWrite.

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The Westboro Baptist Church’s Silicon Valley Protest: An Illustrated Guide

An ambitious plan by the Westboro Baptist Church to picket Silicon Valley’s biggest names may run into a problem that neither God nor technology can solve: traffic.

The Topeka, Kansas-based hate group, which made its way to infamy by picketing funerals of soldiers and sundry other dead folks of note with “God Hates ____” signs, is taking its “God Hates The Media” act to the San Francisco Bay Area on Tuesday, August 12. 

The church group’s schedule is more exhausting than your average tech IPO. The planned protests span almost 70 miles, with the hateful faithful aiming to hit nine tech companies between 11:35 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., allowing just two hours for travel time.

Yeah, good luck with that.

God Hates I-280

Recently ranked among worst commutes in the United States, Silicon Valley’s rush hour starts before dawn and never really ends. San Francisco drivers spent 56 hours in 2013 just sitting in traffic, according to research firm Inrix. And in San Jose, drives spent 35 hours they’ll never get back.

How the Westboro protesters plan to get from Facebook and Instagram in Menlo Park to Reddit’s office in San Francisco—hitting Google, Apple, Skype, YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest in between—remains a mystery. 

ReadWrite repeatedly attempted to contact the Westboro Baptist Church, and were continually met with an endlessly ringing phone. We didn’t even get voicemail. Does God hate Google Voice, too?

Church Of The Poison Mind

The Westborovians have been making some concessions to Silicon Valley realities. They finally noticed—two years after Facebook splashed $1 billion on Instagram—that Instagram had moved out of its startup offices in San Francisco and into Facebook’s corporate headquarters. That and other changes have added 25 minutes of travel time to the original protest schedule.

What’s more, the updated travel time no longer seems to rely on the travel time suggested by Google Maps—which anyone in Silicon Valley knows is a wishful fantasy at best.

Perhaps the Westboro congregation put some seed money into a quantum teleportation startup using funds inherited from WBC founder Fred Phelps, who went to his just reward in March.

Or maybe the church is counting on using ridesharing services to surmount a Jericho’s Wall of Tesla-driving VCs and brogrammers in Google buses. Uber Pool isn’t out quite yet, but the new Lyft Line carpooling app is out just in time for them to get from Point A to Point B efficiently.

We do know that the Westboro Baptist Church sometimes uses the very same technology it condemns. Case in point: The Westboro Baptist Church is participating in an “ask me anything” interview on Reddit on August 10, just two days before the group marches on its San Francisco office. 

Navigating Silicon Valley is always tough, especially when you’ve just dropped in from out of town. To help the protesters get around, we’ve created this handy map of Silicon Valley. And in case traffic stymies them from getting around, they can at least see what they’ve missed.

Illustration by Madeleine Weiss for ReadWrite

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Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs Are The New Rock Stars in Hollywood [Infographic] by @MDMSEO

Name one entrepreneur that wasn’t a fan of the hit TV series Entourage. You can’t. The show gave us all a peek into the crazy and wild ride they call Hollywood, and it quickly became a Sunday night ritual for many. When the wild ride ended, many were left wondering if any network would step up and fill the void left when Entourage ended. Well, HBO hit another home run with their new Silicon Valley show that depicts the startup life and follows a group as they bring their compression software to market. Are the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs the new […]

The post Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs Are The New Rock Stars in Hollywood [Infographic] by @MDMSEO appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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Interns Tell Us What They Would Change At Silicon Valley’s Top Companies

I saw the massive line of interns long before I could see the venue. The young crowd waiting outside Broadway Studios in San Francisco on Tuesday chatted with friends and checked their phones, eagerly awaiting to get inside.

Interns line up outside of Internapalooza 

Approximately 2,000 interns from around the Bay Area signed up to attend Internapalooza, an industry-sponsored event for Silicon Valley’s interns to meet each other, chat up potential employers, and hear some of the tech industry’s finest give advice and share experiences from their younger, soul-searching years.

Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram, Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal, and top tech journalist Kara Swisher were among speakers. Overall, the lineup  included eight white men, one man of color, and two white women, which spoke volumes about the current state of tech’s not-so-diverse demographics.

Scanning the Internapalooza audience, I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of gender and ethnicity. Examining Silicon Valley’s young generation of interns can tell us a lot about the future of technology and about the new faces of leadership. 

While there is a lack of diversity among tech’s current leaders, the Internapalooza attendees suggest just how multifaceted the future of Silicon Valley may be. 

The fresh faces of Internapalooza

Waiting in line to get into the sold-out event  felt worse than waiting in line to get into a club. 

Interns stood shoulder-to-shoulder inside the steamy venue. A few wore business casual, but many were decked out in the true tech wear of t-shirts, jeans and backpacks. The aroma of free hot dogs didn’t help the claustrophobia, nor with the nostalgic feeling of filing into college orientation.

Many of the interns in attendance were  college students or recent college graduates—50% of attendees were rising seniors at their universities. One hundred attendees were interns at Salesforce, 90 came from Google, 50 interned at Facebook and another 50 at Apple. Close to 200 interns hailed from UC Berkeley, and more than 150 attendees studied either at Harvard, Stanford or MIT.

Interns take their seats to hear from more than 10 leaders in tech

The Silicon Valley culture of interns is unlike the Devil Wears Prada, fetching-coffee type of industry jobs, or the kinds of cheap labor positions that are pervasive within Manhattan and Los Angeles’ media-based internships.

Here in San Francisco’s tech industry, companies actively seek interns as potential full-time employees, and not just semester-by-semester rotations of unpaid staff. It’s a competitive market and the statistics of the attendees at Internapalooza are proof. Over half of the interns in attendence major in computer science, and 80% have studied something related to engineering.

Re/code’s Kara Swisher telling it like it is

Speakers hit the stage around 7 p.m, giving life advice in an almost believable, I was a kid once too! fashion. Quick words were said about the necessity of figuring out the rest of their lives. These pieces of advice must have seemed daunting and unreachable coming from the leaders who have already made achievements in technology.

For the many interns looking to break into Silicon Valley, their personal stories were a little more raw.

Cori Shearer, Intern at Pandora

Hearing about Internapalooza from a Bay Area interns group on Facebook, Cori Shearer attended, wanting to be inspired.

“I’m always on the hustle and grind, so sometimes I need events like this to reinvigorate my energy and to remind myself why I’m here in the first place,” says Shearer.

An intern at Pandora, Shearer works in sales technology and on building ad products.

She is also quick to discuss the need for more diversity in tech—noting that many startup’s lack of gender and racial variety occurs when founders look only towards their friends to build their company.

“You need to be in business with people who aren’t like you, and take risks to start your own company. As a female minority, I really want to do something innovative and helpful in the future,” says Shearer.

The Pandora intern hopes to see more people of color on stage at events like Internapalooza.

“Not seeing people on stage that looks like you has an effect because you want to be able to look up to someone,” says Shearer. “This affects future generations, but I am hopeful for change.”

Brian Clanton, Intern at Zynga

Developer Brian Clanton is a first-time intern at Zynga, and hopes one day to become a development lead.

Clanton says he finds it difficult to set himself apart from other interns in Silicon Valley’s ultra-competitive race towards tech employment. This feeling is made all too real while standing amongst the hundreds of interns gathered in the venue.

“In order to set myself apart I need to do well in school, gain lots of work experience, and just work on different projects,” says Clanton.

We awkwardly shuffle amongst groups of interns and gawk at the sheer number of people in attendance. I ask him about the fanaticism surrounding Silicon Valley. What makes the tech industry such an appealing place to work?

“Kids want to work in Silicon Valley because there’s an image projected out there that it’s a lot of fun, and that all of these companies have great working environments. They have hammocks! It appeals to a younger generation,” says Clanton.

Meron Foster, Intern at Captûre Wines

Meron Foster says that she wants to pursue technology because that’s where the future lies. An intern at Captûre Wines, Foster works in sales and events, but not being a technically-inclined person often leaves her feeling left out of the tech bubble.

“It’s tough to find jobs in Silicon Valley. It’s a tight-knit circle, and if you’re not ‘a techie’, it’s intimidating to break into that culture. But I’m good at sales and marketing. It’s just hard to portray that to the tech industry without any tech skills,” says Foster.

Like Shearer, Foster wants to see more people of color working in tech. Although the hundreds of interns at Internapalooza are diverse in gender and ethnicity, the leaders of tech companies often are not.

“Events like this have a lot of young people of color here. Tech has lots of folks of Asian descent, but that’s still a specific color that tech indulges in. This will change with time. There are so many different people, and tech is not closed off to us,” says Foster.

Bay Area interns gathered together

As I leave the venue, the doorman tells me more than 60 interns who could not initially enter waited throughout the night to get inside. With such overwhelming interest, the tech industry is clearly not hurting for qualified candidates. The draw of Silicon Valley for these interns may be as superficial as hammocks and nap pods, or perhaps it’s the in desire for inclusion and for more diverse representation. 

The students at Internapalooza overall were intelligent, driven, and hopeful for positive change.  We are in good hands. 

View full post on ReadWrite

Internapalooza: Silicon Valley’s Weird World of Interns

I saw the massive line of interns long before I could see the venue. The young crowd waiting outside Broadway Studios in San Francisco on Tuesday chatted with friends and checked their phones, eagerly awaiting to get inside.

Interns line up outside of Internapalooza 

Approximately 2,000 interns from around the Bay Area signed up to attend Internapalooza, an industry-sponsored event for Silicon Valley’s interns to meet each other, chat up potential employers, and hear some of the tech industry’s finest give advice and share experiences from their younger, soul-searching years.

Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram, Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal, and top tech journalist Kara Swisher were among speakers. Overall, the lineup  included eight white men, one man of color, and two white women, which spoke volumes about the current state of tech’s not-so-diverse demographics.

Scanning the Internapalooza audience, I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of gender and ethnicity. Examining Silicon Valley’s young generation of interns can tell us a lot about the future of technology and about the new faces of leadership. 

While there is a lack of diversity among tech’s current leaders, the Internapalooza attendees suggest just how multifaceted the future of Silicon Valley may be. 

The fresh faces of Internapalooza

Waiting in line to get into the sold-out event  felt worse than waiting in line to get into a club. 

Interns stood shoulder-to-shoulder inside the steamy venue. A few interns wore business casual, but many were decked out in the true tech wear of t-shirts, jeans and backpacks. The aroma of free hot dogs didn’t help the claustrophobia, nor with the nostalgic feeling of filing into college orientation.

Many of the interns in attendence were  college students or recent college graduates—50% of attendees were rising seniors at their universities. One hundred attendees were interns at Salesforce, 90 came from Google, 50 interned at Facebook and another 50 at Apple. Close to 200 interns hailed from UC Berkeley, and more than 150 attendees studied either at Harvard, Stanford or MIT.

Interns take their seats to hear from more than 10 leaders in tech

The Silicon Valley culture of interns is unlike the Devil Wears Prada, fetching-coffee type of industry jobs, or the kinds of cheap labor positions that are pervasive within Manhattan and Los Angeles’ media-based internships.

Here in San Francisco’s tech industry, companies actively seek interns as potential full-time employees, and not just semester-by-semester rotations of unpaid staff. It’s a competitive market and the statistics of the attendees at Internapalooza are proof. Over half of the interns in attendence major in computer science, and 80% have studied something related to engineering.

Re/code’s Kara Swisher telling it like it is

Speakers hit the stage around 7 p.m, giving life advice in an almost believable, I was a kid once too! fashion. Quick words were said about the necessity of figuring out the rest of their lives. These pieces of advice must have seemed daunting and unreachable coming from the leaders who have already made achievements in technology.

For the many interns looking to break into Silicon Valley, their personal stories were a little more raw.

Cori Shearer, Intern at Pandora

Hearing about Internapalooza from a Bay Area interns group on Facebook, Cori Shearer attended, wanting to be inspired.

“I’m always on the hustle and grind, so sometimes I need events like this to reinvigorate my energy and to remind myself why I’m here in the first place,” says Shearer.

An intern at Pandora, Shearer works in sales technology and on building ad products.

She is also quick to discuss the need for more diversity in tech—noting that many startup’s lack of gender and racial variety occurs when founders look only towards their friends to build their company.

“You need to be in business with people who aren’t like you, and take risks to start your own company. As a female minority, I really want to do something innovative and helpful in the future,” says Shearer.

The Pandora intern hopes to see more people of color on stage at events like Internapalooza.

“Not seeing people on stage that looks like you has an effect because you want to be able to look up to someone,” says Shearer. “This affects future generations, but I am hopeful for change.”

Brian Clanton, Intern at Zynga

Developer Brian Clanton is a first-time intern at Zynga, and hopes one day to become a development lead.

Clanton says he finds it difficult to set himself apart from other interns in Silicon Valley’s ultra-competitive race towards tech employment. This feeling is made all too real while standing amongst the hundreds of interns gathered in the venue.

“In order to set myself apart I need to do well in school, gain lots of work experience, and just work on different projects,” says Clanton.

We awkwardly shuffle amongst groups of interns and gawk at the sheer number of people in attendance. I ask him about the fanaticism surrounding Silicon Valley. What makes the tech industry such an appealing place to work?

“Kids want to work in Silicon Valley because there’s an image projected out there that it’s a lot of fun, and that all of these companies have great working environments. They have hammocks! It appeals to a younger generation,” says Clanton.

Meron Foster, Intern at Captûre Wines

Meron Foster says that she wants to pursue technology because that’s where the future lies. An intern at Captûre Wines, Foster works in sales and events, but not being a technically-inclined person often leaves her feeling left out of the tech bubble.

“It’s tough to find jobs in Silicon Valley. It’s a tight-knit circle, and if you’re not ‘a techie’, it’s intimidating to break into that culture. But I’m good at sales and marketing. It’s just hard to portray that to the tech industry without any tech skills,” says Foster.

Like Shearer, Foster wants to see more people of color working in tech. Although the hundreds of interns at Internapalooza are diverse in gender and ethnicity, the leaders of tech companies often are not.

“Events like this have a lot of young people of color here. Tech has lots of folks of Asian descent, but that’s still a specific color that tech indulges in. This will change with time. There are so many different people, and tech is not closed off to us,” says Foster.

Bay Area interns gathered together

As I leave the venue, the doorman tells me more than 60 interns who could not initially enter waited throughout the night to get inside. With such overwhelming interest, the tech industry is clearly not hurting for qualified candidates. The draw of Silicon Valley for these interns may be as superficial as hammocks and nap pods, or perhaps it’s the in desire for inclusion and for more diverse representation. 

The students at Internapalooza overall were intelligent, driven, and hopeful for positive change.  We are in good hands. 

View full post on ReadWrite

Silicon Valley’s Grand Finale: “Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency”

HBO’s Silicon Valley, the fictional chronicle of a startup crew struggling to make their mark on the world, rounds out its outstanding first season with Episode 8: “Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency.”

ReadWrite screened the final episode at a movie theater in downtown San Francisco, thanks to our friends at fellow tech new site TechCrunch, whose Disrupt conference plays a big part in this season’s plot.

We see the Pied Piper team make their way straight onto the bloody stages of TechCrunch Disrupt’s startup battlefield, where tech giant Hooli’s copycat app makes a play to steal Pied Piper’s spotlight.

The Pied Piper team is informed that they will pass preliminaries and head directly onto startup battlefield.

The Pied Piper team is informed that they will pass preliminaries and head directly onto startup battlefield.

The episode opens with a playback from Episode 7’s cliffhanger: Disrupt judge Dan Melcher (Jake Broder) pummels Pied Piper frontman Erlich Bachmann (T.J. Miller) on stage at the preliminaries, a fistfight erupting over Erlich’s sordid affairs with Dan’s new and old wives.

Gavin Belson presents Hooli's compression app, Nucleus.

Gavin Belson presents Hooli's compression app, Nucleus.

A TechCrunch representative informs the Pied Piper team, Richard (Thomas Middleditch), Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani), Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), Jared (Zach Woods), and Erlich that Dan has been removed as a judge because of his behavior, and that to avoid a lawsuit, TechCrunch will send Pied Piper directly to the final round to compete for the grand prize. Erlich asks the publication to sweeten the deal by getting the whole team a new swanky hotel suite.

The team sulking in the green light of TechCrunch Disrupt.

The team sulking in the green light of TechCrunch Disrupt.

The crew makes their way back to Disrupt to watch Hooli CEO Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) present Nucleus, a cloud compression app with an algorithm that was more or less ripped off from the work of Pied Piper founder Richard Hendricks.

Belson shows Nucleus having ten times the amount of functionality and a Weissman score (a fictional rating from the Silicon Valley universe that measures compression rate and speed) matching that of Pied Piper’s at 2.89. The Pied Piper crew thinks their time at TCD is officially over.

Jared being approached by an officer after suggesting a "track your kids" app to strangers.

Jared being approached by an officer after suggesting a "track your kids" app to strangers.

Bathed in the lime-green light of Disrupt after Gavin’s presentation, the Pied Piper team sulks over what they believe to be a losing fight against Hooli.

Dinesh, Gilfoyle, and Jared tirelessly trying to solve their concocted math problem.

Dinesh, Gilfoyle, and Jared tirelessly trying to solve their concocted math problem.

Erlich, ever optimistic, believes Pied Piper still has a fair chance. Picking up on this, Jared encourages the team to “pivot,” or completely change its business, a strategy he says was taken by the likes of Instagram, an app that used to be a location-based service that pivoted into a image-based social network and sold to Facebook for $1 billion. ChatRoulette, Jared says, used to be social networking until it “pivoted to become a playground for the sexually monstrous.” (The joke works because it’s sad and true.)

After gaining inspiration from the words, "middle out", Richard gets back to work on Pied Piper.

After gaining inspiration from the words, "middle out", Richard gets back to work on Pied Piper.

Jared’s attempt at “pivoting” to find Pied Piper’s new goal included him approaching strangers and asking if they would want an app about acquiring rodents, tracking children, or finding statistical probability of getting into heaven or hell.

Richard tells the rest of the team that he had deleted everything from the app.

Richard tells the rest of the team that he had deleted everything from the app.

Still convinced that Pied Piper can claim the grand prize, Erlich rallies the team in their hotel suite. What starts off as a joke about the time it would take to give a handjob to every man in the TCD audience unravels into the Pied Piper team whipping out equations and formulas like “Mean Jerk Time” in an effort to actually solve the invented math problem.

Richard passively listens to Jared, Erlich, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle slave over this problem, until eventually overhearing the team mention the phrase “middle out.” In a moment of inspiration, we see Richard zero in on that phrase until he bolts from the couch and into the bedroom. There, he spends the rest of the night coding on his laptop. The rest of the crew has no idea what his end goal is, but they see him deep at work and decide to leave him to finish what he’s working on.

Richard addressing the TCD crowd.

Richard addressing the TCD crowd.

The final round begins the next day. Richard barely makes it out of the hotel room with the Pied Piper team. They’re shuffled onstage as the last group to present, and Richard reveals to the crew that he has deleted everything from the Pied Piper app except the core compression algorithm.

Despite his earlier protests that he’s no good at public speaking, Richard realizes there’s no time to explain what he’s come up with to Erlich, and insists that he’ll present instead. Once on stage and with microphone in hand, Richard stumblingly tells the enormous crowd that Hooli essentially made Pied Piper’s same cloud compression app, but better.

Richard showing his work through paper and a projector.

Richard showing his work through paper and a projector.

“We can’t compete,” says Richard.

But, Richard continues, upon gaining inspiration from the words “middle out,” he deleted all his work so far and rebuilt the entire engine from scratch. Pulling out paper from his pocket, which Dinesh helpfully places on a projector, Richard shows the audience his work through simplistic hand-drawn images. It’s an homage to the old back-of-the-napkin sketches that once got startups funded in Silicon Valley in simpler times.

The new Pied Piper's 5.2 validated score.

The new Pied Piper's 5.2 validated score.

Richard’s paper slideshows and off-the-cuff delivery represent the way Pied Piper has operated the whole time, a stark contrast to Hooli’s pressed suits, flashing lights, and slick presentations.

Pied Piper claiming their $50,000 prize.

Pied Piper claiming their $50,000 prize.

Now, Richard says, Pied Piper boasts an even higher Weissman score of 3.8—meaning it can shrink files to a smaller size than Hooli’s Nucleus.

Monica tells Richard what great things he has in store for the future.

Monica tells Richard what great things he has in store for the future.

The judges hand Richard a 3D video file to compress, a file type that Pied Piper has had trouble with before. To the team’s surprise, the file compresses effortlessly, showing an unprecedented 5.2 Weissman score.

A callback to the first episode, Richard is still puking into trash dispensaries.

A callback to the first episode, Richard is still puking into trash dispensaries.

Elated, the team wins the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield contest, and with it, a $50,000 prize—”not that they’re going to need it”, states a judge, given the likely interest from investors.

Monica (Amanda Crew), venture capitalist Peter Gregory’s assistant, joins Richard after their big win, and expresses excitement for Pied Piper’s bright future. In her glee, she tells Richard that he has big things in store, perhaps even managing thousands of people.

Growing more and more uncomfortable from the reality that the Disrupt win was just the beginning of something even more massive, Richard excuses himself. In the last shot of the episode, we see Richard going outside and throwing up in a dumpster.

Like in the very first episode where Richard throws up after being given giant offers to sell Pied Piper, we see that not much has changed for the app and its founder.

HBO has picked up the show for a second season. We’ll be there to report every last pivot of Richard’s stomach.

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Silicon Valley Episode 7 Recap: “Proof Of Concept”

The seventh episode of Silicon Valley takes us to TechCrunch Disrupt, where we see the Pied Piper team finally hit the stage to demonstrate its highly-anticipated compression software. The real-life startup competition is the perfect arena for the Mike Judge-created comedy to expertly skewer the fledgling apps of today, with everything from micro-drones to human microwaving technology.

Gavin Belson and the Hooli crew preparing to unleash Nucleus.

Gavin Belson and the Hooli crew preparing to unleash Nucleus.

In “Proof of Concept,” everyone on the Pied Piper team is getting into trouble at the convention in their own little ways—Richard (Thomas Middleditch) feels slighted by an old ex, while Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) thinks he’s actually falling in love with Gilfoyle’s (Martin Starr) code, and Jared (Zach Woods) begins to feel his position being compromised by Monica (Amanda Crew). Erlich (T.J. Miller), meanwhile, has slept with the wife of one of the TCD judges and needs to prevent him from finding out.

The Aviato car heading into San Francisco.

The Aviato car heading into San Francisco.

The episode opens with Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) and company stomping the halls of Hooli. The two “brogrammers” from the beginning of the season—the ones who effectively stole Pied Piper’s compression algorithms—tell Gavin that their copycat app, Nucleus, is “optimal.”

Monica organizing the team at TechCrunch Disrupt.

Monica organizing the team at TechCrunch Disrupt.

We see Hooli’s meticulous digital chart, labeled “Project Burndown.” When we fade to Erlich’s incubator, Pied Piper’s own “Project Burndown” graph is scribbled messily on a white board—and the trend is going in the opposite direction. Despite the clear contrast between the two powers, both apps are set to debut at TechCrunch Disrupt.

Jared feels out of touch after his stint on Peter Gregory's island, and fears that Monica is taking over his position.

Jared feels out of touch after his stint on Peter Gregory's island, and fears that Monica is taking over his position.

Richard and the team pack their bags and head to the heart of San Francisco’s SOMA district in Erlich’s Aviato car. The convention center is bursting to the seams with groups of men in matching startup t-shirts. 

A booth babe "Bounce Jog" demo.

A booth babe "Bounce Jog" demo.

Jared’s back after being stuck on Peter Gregory’s island for four days, but the still-disheveled ex-Hooli member is quickly overshadowed by Monica’s organization and adeptness. She hands out passes to the Pied Piper team and instructs them during their soundcheck; Jared’s told to man the booth.

Thrown off by his driverless car kidnapping to the island, Jared increasingly loses his grip over the team. He prints an endless stack of papers with each TCD participant’s headshot and bio, only to find out that Monica installed a facial recognition app onto each of the guys’ phones. He sadly dumps his paper stack—at least half a tree—into the garbage.

Jared facing off with a micro-drone.

Jared facing off with a micro-drone.

Jared heads to the bar to buy drinks for the Pied Piper team, only to find that once again, Monica beats him to the punch with shots. At one point during soundcheck, the team decides that while Jared is not essential to the group. Dinesh says, “You’re essential to the booth.”

Perhaps designed to mirror the real world, Silicon Valley’s cast notably features just one female lead. “Proof of Concept” brings three more women into the spotlight, but they’re not entirely flattering portrayals.

Charlotte of Cupcakely asks the Pied Piper team for coding help.

Charlotte of Cupcakely asks the Pied Piper team for coding help.

At the beginning of the episode, Monica reminds the team there are 2% of women in tech, but 15% at TCD. She tells them not to be distracted—just as the team gets distracted by a blonde “booth babe” in hot pink athletic gear demonstrating a new product called “Bounce Jog.”

Booth babes are everywhere in this world’s TCD, even at the table adjacent to Pied Piper’s booth. But even women can’t attract anyone to Pied Piper’s barren booth, which is only visited by an ad-spewing micro-drone that Gilfoyle tries to swat away like a fly. Much like with the driverless car, we see Jared’s inability to deal with, and almost fear, such technology.

"You never should have said no to my man, Gavin Belson." Big Head ups his bro quotient in front of other Hooli employees.

"You never should have said no to my man, Gavin Belson." Big Head ups his bro quotient in front of other Hooli employees.

“Hello, what’s your name?” the drone squawks.

“Whoever is controlling this, no thank you,” Jared speaks into the drone.

The Pied Piper booth catches the attention of a young woman with pink streaks in her hair. She compliments Gilfoyle on the app’s “sick” compression rates, and then asks for help coding her app, “Cupcakely.”

The Cupcakely woman, Charlotte (A.J. Michalka), seeks out Dinesh separately for extra help on Java. Dinesh, mistakenly taking the app’s code for hers and not Gilfoyle’s, falls in love with Charlotte for “her brain.” It is only revealed later that not only was Cupcakely’s beautiful code written by Gilfoyle, but Charlotte only manages the app’s Twitter account.

Richard accidentally broadcasts Sherry's photo to the world, proving just how not obsessed he is.

Richard accidentally broadcasts Sherry's photo to the world, proving just how not obsessed he is.

Ex-Pied Piper member Big Head shows up at TCD with the Hooli crew, but separates himself for a second to have a chat outside with Richard. There, Big Head tells Richard that he met Sherry Caldwell (Mary Holland), Richard’s ex-fling, at a party.

TechCrunch Disrupt judge Dan Melcher eyeing Elrich.

TechCrunch Disrupt judge Dan Melcher eyeing Elrich.

“I saw her at the ValleyWag party last night, which was crazy by the way,” says Big Head. “There must have been 12 girls there. She said you went out a couple times and she dumped you and you became obsessed with her?”

Suddenly noticing the two Hooli brogrammers coming their way, Big Head changes his tone and tells Richard loudly that “Wide Diaper” will be crushed by Nucleus.

Erlich meets and romances Dan's new wife.

Erlich meets and romances Dan's new wife.

Richard cannot stop—literally—obsessing over the fact that Charlotte said he was obsessive. He becomes so fixated on this that he ends up showing all of his team member’s her picture individually while expressing his own disbelief.

Unfortunately, Richard forgets to remove her image from his laptop before the team’s final soundcheck, and he ends up broadcasting her image on a giant screen in front of none other than Sherry herself.

"Making the world a better place".

"Making the world a better place".

Sherry is understandably disturbed by Richard’s “freak out,” only until she overhears a heated conversation between Jared and Monica. Jared is expressing his frustration at Monica for completely co-opting his role in the team, making him obsolete.

This, of course, comes off sounding to Sherry like Jared’s professed love for Richard and his commitment as a “partner” in their relationship. Believing Jared and Richard to be in a loving—gay—partnership, Sherry apologizes to Richard for mistakenly talking about his (very real) obsession with her.

"We are lo mo so".

"We are lo mo so".

Finally, Erlich’s plotline revolves around one of the TCD judges, Dan Melcher. Erlich is concerned about the biased nature of the judging, as he had slept with Dan’s wife in the past. In order to find out if Dan is still upset, Erlich seeks out Dan’s wife Madeline to clear the air.

Pied Piper anxiously steps onto the TCD stage.

Pied Piper anxiously steps onto the TCD stage.

Catching Dan leaving his hotel room, Erlich sneakily knocks on the door only to meet Dan’s new wife (Lynn Chen). Unsurprisingly, after discovering that Dan was no longer upset at Erlich’s affair with Madeline, Erlich then goes on to sleep with Dan’s new wife.

Unfazed by this romp and assured that Dan’s new wife won’t spill the beans, Erlich makes it to TCD just as Pied Piper is about to head on stage.

Erlich in his best turtleneck being bathed in TCD spotlight.

Erlich in his best turtleneck being bathed in TCD spotlight.

Silicon Valley’s TechCrunch Disrupt mercilessly jabs at startup culture, showcasing deer-in-the-headlights CEOs in team t-shirts plastered with names like “Flingual” and “Human Heater.” An overexcited emcee can’t get more than two people to cheer.

Each and every single competitor assures the audience that their app is “making the world a better place,” and that they are “local, mobile, social”—and the even better degenerate of that, “lo mo so.”

The Pied Piper team eventually makes it on stage in their dark green, Chuy Ramirez-crafted tees. Lights dim, music starts to swell, and spotlight is cast on Erlich in a turtleneck.

Only a few seconds into his presentation, Erlich is immediately blindsided by a furious Dan, who tackles him to the ground. Fist fighting erupts on stage, and the team is left stranded and wondering whether Pied Piper will ever make its debut.

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Silicon Valley Episode 6 Recap: “Third Party Insourcing”

HBO’s Silicon Valley returned this week with its sixth episode, continuing to peel back the layers of California’s tech bubble and proving everything in the valley isn’t as shiny as it may seem. “Third Party Insourcing” shows us that newer and younger may not always be better—Richard (Thomas Middleditch) and the Pied Piper team enable the help of a surly teen hacker and Jared is taken hostage by a driverless car.

The episode opens up with Richard back in his doctor’s office, telling his physician that while he had learned programming language Ruby On Rails over a weekend as a teenager, the Pied Piper lead was just unable to handle programming his product for the cloud. His doctor mentions that Richard looks as if he’s aged 40 years in the past seven weeks—the amount of time since preparing for his app’s debut at startup competition TechCrunch Disrupt.

Jared, Erlich, and Dinesh beg Richard to employ help in front of their packed Scrum board.

Jared, Erlich, and Dinesh beg Richard to employ help in front of their packed Scrum board.

With one week left until Disrupt, the team is clearly antsy to get Pied Piper up and polished. Back at the incubator, Jared (Zach Woods), Erlich (T.J. Miller), and Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) beg Richard to hire a hacker to help with cloud architecture, using their packed Scrum board as evidence that they needed to get as many jobs from “Ice Box” to “Completed” as soon as possible. The team suggests “The Carver” (Austin Abrams), a hacker notorious for taking down Bank of America.

A chair angrily plunged into a "Making The World A Better Place" poster.

A chair angrily plunged into a "Making The World A Better Place" poster.

The Pied Piper team head to a building to enlist the help of “The Carver.” Upon arrival, the crew sees what used to be a startup’s headquarters being broken down—computer monitors being carried into boxes, desks being unassembled. It is a glaring example to the team of the frailty and turnover cycle of fresh startups.

Signs of a failed startup—empty coffee cups and energy drinks just strewn across the room.

Signs of a failed startup—empty coffee cups and energy drinks just strewn across the room.

Richard, Jared, Erlich, and Dinesh walk through the floors, wide-eyed and somber like civilians witnessing the aftermath of the apocalypse. There’s a chair puncturing the wall, right over a poster exclaiming “Making The World A Better Place”. Conference rooms are littered with empty coffee cups and energy drinks.

Kevin "The Carver" judging the Pied Piper team relentlessly.

Kevin "The Carver" judging the Pied Piper team relentlessly.

“6 months ago, these guys had 35 million in Series B financing. Now, The Carver’s here doing teardown,” Jared remarks.

The team sees The Carver turned around and huddled over three large monitors, pushing out code. When the prominent hacker faces the group, we and the Pied Piper team learn that he is Kevin, a bratty high schooler who immediately jumps into sarcastic quips about Richard’s age.

“I thought you’d be younger,” Kevin says, “What are you, 25?”

“26,” Richard replies.

“Yikes.”

Silicon Valley’s youthful tech bubble is not a new concept, with attractive 20 to 30-year-olds ruling the roost at startups and beyond. This episode plays on the very real trend of children being indoctrinated into code, and tech companies’ search for nubile programming talent.

Kevin’s age is apparent despite his experience in engineering, as Erlich uses a blowjob joke to negotiate a deal—$20,000 for two days aiding the Pied Piper team.

The men of Pied Piper: Richard in a button up and hoodie, Dinesh in a striped polo, Erlich in a red Atari t-shirt, and Jared in a button up underneath a sweater.

The men of Pied Piper: Richard in a button up and hoodie, Dinesh in a striped polo, Erlich in a red Atari t-shirt, and Jared in a button up underneath a sweater.

By this sixth episode, we see the characters solidify their distinct style of dress for their roles. Richard continues his channeling of Zuckerberg in button-ups, hoodies, and corduroys. Dinesh wears a striped green and purple hoodie, while Jared sticks to his blazers and button-ups under sweaters.

Erlich in his CSS3 shirt.

Erlich in his CSS3 shirt.

Erlich wears a bright red Atari shirt with a full beard for a portion of the episode, only to change into a CSS3 shirt for the remainder, capturing geek chic with his novelty t-shirts.

Kevin tries to help the Pied Piper team with their cloud architecture. He wears a colorfully striped hoodie, an open button up, and a t-shirt.

Kevin tries to help the Pied Piper team with their cloud architecture. He wears a colorfully striped hoodie, an open button up, and a t-shirt.

In juxtaposition, Kevin’s colorfully striped hoodies over open button ups and t-shirts evokes a more childlike aura. “The Carver” is already eliciting markers of the “programmer” look but with a teenage twist in bright colors and graphics. He is much like a mini version Richard, truly a kid coder.

Jared wears a dark grey blazer, light grey sweater, and a button up. Monica wears a dark turquoise sweater, grey skirt, and a simple gold necklace.

Jared wears a dark grey blazer, light grey sweater, and a button up. Monica wears a dark turquoise sweater, grey skirt, and a simple gold necklace.

Monica (Amanda Crew) returns briefly this episode to meet with Jared and offer him a ride back to Erlich’s home in Palo Alto. She is dressed in a dark turquoise sweater, light grey pencil skirt, and delicate gold accessories, once again demonstrating her power and business savvy as Peter Gregory’s assistant through her stylish and put-together outfits.

Monica helping out one of Peter Gregory's assistants while on the phone with Jared.

Monica helping out one of Peter Gregory's assistants while on the phone with Jared.

This episode fails the Bechdel test yet again, as no women are not seen talking to each other at all. Gilfoyle’s girlfriend Tara (Milana Vayntrub) interacts solely with the men at the Pied Piper house, and another nameless woman from Peter Gregory’s company is introduced by Monica as an assistant who made a mistake. Monica and the assistant never talk, mind you, as she is explaining the woman’s mistake to Jared on the phone.

Jared happily embarks on his journey in a driverless car.

Jared happily embarks on his journey in a driverless car.

When Jared suggests going back by Lyft, Monica insists that one of Peter Gregory’s cars take him back. Jared agrees, and is met by a black driverless car. Excited and chuckling, the new Pied Piper member is shuttled off to Palo Alto.

The driverless car makes an unexpected change in route to Peter Gregory's island, Arallon.

The driverless car makes an unexpected change in route to Peter Gregory's island, Arallon.

Unfortunately, the fun ride comes abruptly to a stop as the car arbitrary changes direction to Arallon—Peter Gregory’s high-tech island hidden far in the middle of an ocean—4,000 miles away. Unable to reroute the driverless car after multiple sad pleas, Jared is taken to a port and driven into a crate which is then immediately locked up.

Jared is taken hostage by the driverless car, which takes him into a crate and eventually onto a ship.

Jared is taken hostage by the driverless car, which takes him into a crate and eventually onto a ship.

The crate is picked up and delivered onto a giant cargo ship—Jared, in a car, in a crate, on a ship, is being sailed away to Peter Gregory’s island.

Richard begins working with Kevin on Pied Piper’s cloud architecture. Dealing with Kevin’s difficult attitude, Richard continues to reveal vulnerability and asks the hacker to help him with the app’s data replication. After heading to the store and returning with snacks, Richard finds Kevin under the table, sobbing and terrified, and learns that Kevin had mistakenly overwritten the data scheme.

Kevin admits that he never took down Bank of America on purpose, but rather made a coding mistake while working there as a consultant.

Kevin admits that he never took down Bank of America on purpose, but rather made a coding mistake while working there as a consultant.

“The Carver” explains that the same thing had happened at Bank of America, that he was actually not hacking them but working as a consultant and had made a colossal coding mistake. The bank had only agreed not to sue him if he agreed not to tell a soul he had worked there.

With one week left to Disrupt, and the team flies into a panic trying to fix Kevin’s mistake.

“Richard, why would you let that little fetus access the DDM?” Gilfoyle snarls. Richard responds, “Because I thought that fetus was better than me, and so did you.”

Caught up in Silicon Valley’s youth-obsessed culture, the Pied Piper team immediately thought that because the young hacker had rumors of greatness trailing him, that Kevin had to be a programming prodigy. What they learned was not only that was not true, but “The Carver” had a tendency to create massive mistakes in his inexperience.

Richard and Kevin decide to work through the night and examine every line of code to find where the mistake lay. Finally, the two are able to remedy the problem and Pied Piper is back on track to launch. In a final testament to tech’s youth culture—the immaturity mixed with power, money, and knowledge, Kevin says, “I’m going to call my mom and have her pick me up.”

“Mom?” Richard laughs.

“By the way, you owe me 20,000 dollars,” Kevin bluntly delivers.

Jared realizes that the fork lift he was flagging down is driverless.

Jared realizes that the fork lift he was flagging down is driverless.

Jared finally reaches Arallon by the end of the episode, popping out of the driverless car and crate looking disheveled and with days of unshaven facial hair. He immediately sees a forklift engulfed in boxes heading his way. Elated and desperate, Jared shouts and flags the forklift down, only to find it is (surprise!) a driverless machine.

Jared amongst the driverless machines at Peter Gregory's island.

Jared amongst the driverless machines at Peter Gregory's island.

The final moments of the episode show a beautifully composed and thematically rich shot of Jared facing a gigantic warehouse full of self-moving machines, not a human being in sight.

Jared realizes he is alone on Peter Gregory’s island, one man amidst a thousand active machines. As these instruments meticulously build the island with unparalleled skill and intelligence, even Jared cannot connect with them on a sentient and compassionate level in order to get help.

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FTC To Silicon Valley: Lying About User Privacy Will Get You A Big … Wrist Slap

The Federal Trade Commission today effectively told technology companies: Go ahead and lie to consumers about your privacy protections, because even if you get caught, the most you’ll have to do is apologize. (If that.)

Snapchat, the “ephemeral” messaging service, agreed to settle FTC charges over claims that alleged it violated user privacy and deceived its customers. The company claimed that messages disappear entirely once viewed by the recipient, which they don’t, and collected user data such as location and address books without notice or consent.

The FTC charges followed a Snapchat security breach that leaked 4.6 million Snapchat usernames and phone numbers. According to the FTC, Snapchat made multiple representations to consumers that turned out to be utterly false. It also failed to properly safeguard its “Find Friends” feature—the one that led to the breach.

“If a company markets privacy and security as key selling points in pitching its service to consumers, it is critical that it keep those promises,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. “Any company that makes misrepresentations to consumers about its privacy and security practices risks FTC action.”

And The Punishment Is … Nothing Much 

Sounds pretty bad, right? But the price Snapchat has to pay for all this is, well, basically nothing. The FTC settlement forbids Snapchat from lying to consumers about the privacy and security of the application, and requires the company to implement a privacy program that will be independently monitored for the next two decades. (Assuming Snapchat lasts anywhere near that long, of course.)

So instead of levying a fine against the messaging startup, which has raised $123 million to date, the FTC is letting Snapchat off with a warning. The startup responded to the settlement with a “whoopsie” and a vague promise to be “more precise” in how it communicates with the Snapchat community. Even as apologies go, it leaves something to be desired.

The Snapchat settlement is in stark contrast with another Internet company that knowingly violated user privacy—in 2012, Google agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle with the FTC after it tracked Safari users who visited sites within Google’s advertising network, even though Google had told those users they would automatically be opted out of such tracking.

While $22.5 million is a drop in the bucket for Google, a multi-million dollar fine might have crimped the startup’s bid to become a mobile messaging giant. Instead, the federal government chose to let the company off easy, even though it put its users at risk.

Any company should be held accountable for their actions, whether a small startup or an industry giant like Google. Facebook, a company notorious for confusing privacy policies, settled its own $20 million lawsuit last year after a court determined its shady “Sponsored Stories” advertisements violated users’ privacy.

The Snapchat precedent is a dangerous one, especially as consumers become more aware of how their data is being used by technology companies and the government. The fact is, social media companies are way too cavalier about vacuuming up their users’ data and offering too little in return. Now both small companies and tech giants alike will look to the Snapchat ruling for support in future cases—they got off easy, so we should, too.

So here’s your lesson entrepreneurs. If you lie to users, it’s no big deal, because the government doesn’t care about your privacy either.

Image courtesy of TechCrunch on Flickr

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