No industry is immune to scandal, least of all the tech industry. Look, we all love a little bit of drama and luckily for us there’s no shortage of that in the tech world. From Facebook’s many, many scandals, to good ol’ Edward Snowden, we’ll be taking a look at the biggest tech scandals of the decade – stay tuned.
2010 – Brutal Factory Conditions
The tech scandal of 2010 is a little bit more on the somber side. At least 14 workers at Foxconn factories, which manufacture goods for Apple, Nintendo, and HP, committed suicide over the brutal working conditions.
From cruel management, to extreme overtime, many of the factory workers simply couldn’t take the harsh environment any more. In fact, it got so bad, that the company installed safety nets to catch workers who jumped from the upper stories of the buildings, and asked employees to sign an agreement stating that they would not kill themselves.
2013 – Edward Snowden
In what is probably the most famous whistleblowing event in history, former contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency had spied on people’s Google and Yahoo accounts, recording text, audio, and video without their consent.
Google and Yahoo both denied having granted government access to their servers, and Google even released a statement that they had “long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping.”
Snowden faces charges of violating the Espionage Act, and is currently living in Moscow, where he has been granted asylum status.
2015 – Volkwagen Cheating
In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency discovered that Volkswagen had been installing “defeat devices” on cars that detect when they were being tested for emissions. This delivered incorrect results, and made them seem like they had less of a carbon footprint. Volkswagen confirmed the allegations, stating that they had fitted 11 million of their cars with the devices.
They agreed to pay $4.3 billion in fines to the US, and another $22 billion to claims from regulators and Volkswagen car owners. Six of the company’s executives ended up facing criminal charges for their involvement in the scandal.
2016 – Recall of Galaxy Note 7s
2016 was a big year for tech scandals! From the Theranos labs drama, Apple dodging taxes in the EU, and exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7s, things were pretty busy.
Back to those exploding phones: Samsung issued a global recall of Galaxy Note 7s in September 2016, after a number of models caught fire while charging. They stated that shipping would begin after updated models were deemed safe, but reports surfaced that several replacement phones were also exploding. This lead Samsung to halt production on the model entirely.
2017 – Russian Tampering
In what is arguably the biggest scandal of the last decade, Facebook reported that fake accounts linked to Russia ran thousands of ads during the 2016 US presidential race. These accounts bought around $100,000 USD worth of Facebook ads, starting in June 2015 with the goal of influencing the results of the election.
Before they made the announcement in September 2017, Facebook had repeatedly denied the existence of any Russian involvement in election ads. Facebook has since pledged to take action against any foreign-funded campaigns that attempt to influence future elections.
2018 – Facebook and Cambridge Analytica
Wow! Facebook really can’t get enough of the scandals. Do they just have a taste for drama or are they really that shady? (Hint: they’re really that shady). Following an incredible report by The Guardian, Facebook suspended its use of Cambridge Analytica, a data collection firm. They improperly obtained the data of millions of Facebook accounts to serve pro-Trump ads in the run up to the 2016 presidential election. Trump reportedly paid the firm millions to use its services, which were in direct violation of Facebook’s advertising partner terms – and yet they let it happen.
2019 – Boeing Crashes
In the final installment of the biggest tech scandals of the decade, we’ve hit another somber note. At least two years before the Boeing 737 Max crash that killed 346 people, a top Boeing pilot was warned about “egregious” issues with the model. In a report by the New York Times, details emerged that pointed to the fact that top Boeing execs knew about the problems with the plane and did nothing. After the second crash, all Boeing 737 Max planes were grounded, and the FBI is currently investigating Boeing’s handling of the situation.
So many scandals
The biggest tech scandals of the decade range from the tragic (Foxconn factory suicides) to the outright ridiculous (Recall of Note 7s). What’s certain is that the last 10 years have been full of drama in the industry, and it’s likely the next 10 years will be too. As we move forward into a digital age, the scandals will grow bigger and the stories more complicated – and boy, what a decade it is set to be.