Uber’s fall from grace, Equifax hack, #MeToo: Tech scandals, 2017-18

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This story is part of The 2010s: A Decade in Review, a series on the memes, people, products, movies and so much more that have influenced the 2010s.

This is when things went from bad to worse. We learned Facebook, Twitter and the rest of social media were used as propaganda tools by Russia, North Korea, Iran and other countries hoping to interfere in the US elections. The #MeToo movement exposed sexual harassment and other bad behavior throughout Silicon Valley. And Uber’s self-driving car killed someone.

If the middle of the decade was when things started to go wrong, this is when the turn became unmistakable. 

Politicians who’d spent years cozying up to tech execs like they were rock star icons of the American dream were now threatening to write laws to rein them in. The US Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice and congressional committees began taking a hard look at whether the privacy failures at Facebook and Google were illegal. 

The span from 2017 to 2018 was when America’s love affair with the tech world faded

The do-gooder persona cultivated by executives like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter chief Jack Dorsey, Google head Sundar Pichai and so many others fell apart. In its place, we saw execs seemingly clueless about the rampant abuse on their platforms.

This is the third part of our series about the biggest tech scandals of the decade. Part 1 focused on, among other things, Apple Maps, Netflix’s price hikes and Edward Snowden‘s revelations about the National Security Agency. Part 2 covered GamerGate, Theranos and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 fires

Now we look at the fallout from tech’s failure to effectively self-govern.

We want to hear from you. Let us know which scandal you think was the worst and why.

Kiss your Social Security number goodbye


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Credit-monitoring service Equifax, the company you usually go to when you’ve lost your personal information, managed to get itself hacked, losing 145.5 million Social Security numbers. 

Then there was the company’s initial reaction, which directed you toward signing up for its own credit check service and at the same time potentially waiving your right to a lawsuit (the company said that wasn’t the case). 

The incident cost Equifax’s CEO his job, and in turn he for the hack.

And if that wasn’t fun enough, . Because of course it did. (But you still have time to sign up for a money payout or 10 years of free credit monitoring. .)

Men behaving (really) badly


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2017 was a year when men who behaved (really) badly faced their reckoning. Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein became a poster child for sexual harassment, but he wasn’t alone. Venture capital executives were already falling over themselves to issue apologies, and it soon became clear this behavior was more prevalent than anyone wanted to admit. 

Justin Caldbeck, co-founder of Silicon Valley venture capital fund Binary Capital,  and took an indefinite leave of absence after The Information reported on his behavior. (He’s since sued his former business partner, claiming mismanagement of the fund after he left.)

Chris Sacca, an early investor in companies like Twitter, Uber and Instagram, after he was named in a New York Times report about sexual harassment in the tech startup field.

Dave McClure was another venture capitalist named in the New York Times report. McClure , which he founded in 2010. He’s since started a new fund, called Practical Venture Capital.

Frank Artale, a managing partner at Ignition Partners, resigned .

Steve Jurvetson , Draper Fisher Jurvetson, amid allegations of sexual harassment. He’s since founded a new early-stage venture firm called Future Ventures.

Uber’s sexual harassment, chaotic culture and leather jackets


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A single blog post by a former employee marked the beginning of the end of Uber’s freewheeling days. In February, Susan Fowler published an essay titled “Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber.” The post said the company was and unprofessional business practices. It also detailed specific instances of sexual harassment and preferential treatment toward male employees. 

In an anecdote, Fowler said male employees in one department were given leather jackets but women were left out. Why? Because there simply weren’t enough female employees to justify placing an order for smaller sizes. 

This blog post led to two internal investigations into Uber’s business practices and the toppling of its chain of command. 

Ultimately, Kalanick was forced out, though he remains on the board of directors. In his place was new , who eventually

#MeToo comes to Google


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The New York Times reported in October that Google had routinely paid high-profile men at the company to leave when it discovered credible allegations of sexual misbehavior. Android boss Andy Rubin, for example, was reportedly paid $90 million . The Times’ findings enraged many Google employees, sparking around the world.

One positive outcome: The company that sexual harassment and assault complaints go to arbitration. Other tech companies, including Facebook, have followed suit.

Logan Paul uploads video of a dead body on YouTube


Logan Paul

Logan Paul, one of YouTube’s biggest stars, posted videos to his 15 million subscribers late last year chronicling a trip to Japan. Many of the videos were eye-roll worthy enough. One example: He threw large Pokemon balls at people on the street. But things got unpleasant when he visited a forest that’s become a magnet for suicides. While the cameras were rolling, he and his crew found a body — video that he later uploaded. The resulting firestorm prompted YouTube to boot him from a special advertising program, while sponsors backed away. YouTube also delayed the release of a new video series he’d worked on with the company. Nearly a year later, he’s ended up with 3 million more subscribers than he had before the fiasco. 

(If you’re in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK [8255], or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.)

Spectre and Meltdown, massive chip security flaws, rock the industry


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The year kicked off with two massive vulnerabilities, as security researchers disclosed Spectre and Meltdown: major flaws in processing chips that . The vulnerability was most notable for its potential impact, possibly affecting chips in computers and mobile devices going back as far as 20 years. 

Companies rushed to fix the problems with software updates, which were plagued with their own issues, as . And researchers discovered more variants of Spectre and Meltdown in

Elon Musk’s Twitter habit causes headaches


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By the fall, many people were offering this unsolicited advice to Elon Musk: Stop tweeting. And it isn’t hard to see why. His tweets have always been controversial, particularly when they’re critical of female journalists, inspiring his army of trollish followers to harass and threaten them. But three episodes in particular stood out.

Musk loves to tweet announcements about Tesla. He’s announced features for the cars on Twitter, such as a major upgrade to . His and Tesla’s public statements landed him in hot water with the Department of Justice, which is investigating him over statements about , and whether he or Tesla had committed fraud. 

Over the summer, 12 boys and a soccer coach were lost, found and rescued from a deadly cave collapse in Thailand. The whole drama, which played out over more than a week, captured the world’s attention. Musk also prompted a sideshow to the drama, asking his teams at SpaceX, a reusable-rocket company he runs, to help invent a small submarine to get the victims out. It wasn’t used, but Musk took exception to a comment that his submarine was a “.” Musk took to Twitter to call the commenter, among other things, a “pedo guy.” Musk eventually apologized, but then revived the unsubstantiated claim, .

What really got people’s attention though was Musk’s tweet in early August, saying he was “considering”  and had enough funds secured to buy the company at $420 per share. (He said he arrived at the number by rounding up from $419 per share, but it’s hard not to see it as a pot joke.) The Securities and Exchange Commission got involved when , issuing a subpoena as it investigated whether Musk had “intentionally misled investors.” In September, , paying a combined $40 million fine. Musk also agreed to step down as chairman of Tesla, appoint two new independent directors to the company’s board and create a committee of independent directors to oversee Musk’s communications (i.e. his tweets).

What a decade, and we’re not even done yet. We’ll be publishing the 2019 edition of our annual list of the tech industry’s screwups and misadventures on Friday. In the meantime, if you can’t wait for more 2010s nostalgia, head over to our Decade In Review

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