In another post, I wrote about the biggest technology stories of the year. I tried to keep that one relatively positive. But in this post, I want to explore more of those not so great moments. Whether that’s a $700 juicer, epic data breaches or rampant sexism in corporations, but I want to go deep with this one. Some might say I’m focusing on the negative, and maybe I am. But 2017 brought us some epic failures, so I think it’s important to highlight those as well.
Sexism at Google
James Damore wrote an incredibly awful memo while he was still employed with Google. Known as the “anti-diversity memo”, this not only caused him to get fired but also turned into a firestorm at Google. To add insult to injury, several employees agreed with the 10-page “manifesto”. In the memo, Damore argues that women are likely to have innate biological traits that make them inferior to men, simply because of their biology. For example, Damore believes that women have more neuroticism, which “may contribute to higher levels of anxiety”. This might be the reason that there are fewer women in high-stress jobs. Damore makes this inference based on data from Googlegeist. I won’t go into many more details about this in particular, but the bottom line is that this isn’t good for Google. This happens more than we think in large corporations. But in more subtle ways.
What is interesting to me, is the number of people who agreed with the memo. If there are that many people who think that women are inferior, Google needs to do something about it. They need to understand why this is happening and come up with a strategy to eliminate it. Especially since it probably doesn’t stop there.
Equifax Data Breach
In early September, Equifax admitted that the data belonging to 143 million customers had been stolen between May and June of 2017. What makes this part of this list is because Equifax is an incredibly large company, and honestly, security should be their number one priority. They have a ton of sensitive data on millions and millions of people. Which makes this not only bad but monumentally bad. Equifax has since been investigated by Congress for this screw-up, and current CEO Paulino do Rego Barros Jr. was forced to admit that he didn’t even know if his company was encrypting their data. If I could put an emoji in here, it would be the hand on the forehead emoji. How do you not know? The answer should be yes. Always yes!
In May, a cyber attack, known as “WannaCry” hit over 150 countries and affected 10,000 organizations. It exploited a security vulnerability originally discovered (but not reported) by the NSA, attacking any unpatched computers running Windows XP. The attackers demanded ransom in the form of Bitcoin, but a security researcher found a quick fix. That same researcher has warned that this isn’t the last of these kinds of attacks. Bottom line – protect yourself, people.
We all know that Russia played a part in the 2016 presidential election by way of advertisements. It was in 2017, however, that several companies were forced to admit to Congress that they may have helped to facilitate this. Those companies include Facebook, Google, and Twitter. The ads themselves targeted mostly contentious political issues, rather than candidates. The intent appears to have been to create divisions among Americans who seem to get their news only from social media sources. The take away for the social media companies (from Congress) is that they need to be able to police their own content. We know that this is a huge challenge for companies like Facebook who have over 2 billion users.
Uber has seen its fair share of issues this year. A ton, actually. It was hard to see a headline in the media, without also seeing something about Uber. I will attempt to highlight some of these events, but I think its fair to say that Uber is looking forward to the new year. Early in 2017, a former Uber employee made allegations against the company for sexual harassment and discrimination. In general, this doesn’t surprise me as we have seen this with Google. Then Waymo filed a lawsuit that alleged Uber had stolen trade secrets regarding autonomous technology. Uber then gets caught deceiving local law enforcement with a fake version of itself called Greyball. In June, CEO Travis Kalanick resigned. It didn’t end there. Uber is then hit with 20 years worth of regular FTC audits after it allegedly failed to protect the information of its users. Then they revealed that they had covered up a data breach, which affected more than 57 million customers.
Juicero, the Silicon Valley startup that raised more than $100 million in venture capital eventually went out of business. Why? Well, they developed a juicer that was going to cost consumers $700. I personally don’t think that juicers are beneficial, but one could make the argument that a $150 (or less) juicer could be beneficial. And I would be ok with that argument. But $700? A Bloomberg article and video detailed how this process could actually be done by hand. So why do you need a $700 juicer? You don’t, and that’s why Juicero went under.
Ok, so Donald Trump isn’t technology, but he makes headlines a lot. Especially in relation to his tweeting. So why is this making the list of the most epic failures? Cause he’s kind of a menace when it comes to tweeting. Think about it. He called Kim Jong Un, “Little Rocket Man”. He also continually insults people by suggesting that they’re reporting on “fake news”. Maybe the best tweet of his this year was the “covfefe” incident. That was actually really funny. But it’s interesting to me that he continues to tweet. He makes random announcements using Twitter, which isn’t typical for a sitting president. I mean, on one hand, this speaks to how society is moving in terms of communication, which I love. But on the other hand, he’s the President of the United States. He should not be tweeting big announcements. He maybe shouldn’t be tweeting at all? Twitter did take his account offline for 11 glorious minutes, though, so I guess that was our 2017 reprieve.