The biggest tech failure of 2021



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There have been times this year where the technology has failed or hasn’t fully worked – from giant internet blackouts and crippling ransomware attacks to a slew of problems for Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook. (So, in fact, it’s the only company we’ve listed twice here.)

Here is CNN Business’s list of some of the most notable technology disasters of 2021:

In April, cybersecurity experts said the personal information of half a billion Facebook users, including phone numbers, birthdays and email addresses, had been posted on a website used by pirates. Facebook said at the time that the same data had already been reported as deleted from people’s profiles by “malicious actors” in 2019 – and the issue that made that possible was resolved in the same year. The incident showed once again how vulnerable companies that collect massive amounts of personal data can be to bad actors.
Also in April, LinkedIn confirmed that publicly available details pulled from around 500 million user profiles were offered for sale on a hacking website. Linkedin said at the time that the database for sale was “actually an aggregation of data from a number of websites and companies.” The company also said it was “not a LinkedIn data breach.”

Citizen app falsely identifies suspected arsonist

In May, Citizen, a startup whose app sends out real-time crime alerts, offered a $ 30,000 reward for helping determine who started a wildfire in Los Angeles. Reports, including a photo of a man posted on Signal, led police to arrest a suspect. There was only one (very big) problem: it turned out that he had been identified by mistake.

The company had used a new product in its app called OnAir to disseminate information about the suspect, but said it did not follow its own verification protocols before releasing the information.

Ransomware attacks become big problems

This year’s ransomware attacks – in which hackers gain access to a computer system and, essentially, own a business hostage for money – has risen sharply, especially those targeting businesses and critical infrastructure. A major attack in May highlighted the vulnerability of America’s infrastructure to such crimes: Colonial Pipeline.
One of the largest pipelines in the United States, Colonial Pipeline was forced to shut down when its network was hit by a cyber attack, which was apparently made possible by hackers gaining access to a compromised password. The CEO of Colonial Pipeline later admitted to paying $ 4.4 million in ransom to get the company’s network back up and running. In June, U.S. Justice Department investigators said they recovered $ 2.3 million in cryptocurrency paid to hackers who were behind the attack on the Colonial Pipeline.

Two outages cut off (briefly) a large part of the Internet

It’s happened twice in less than two weeks: Large swathes of the internet have been shut down, destroyed by outages at tech companies most people have never even heard of. The outages were quickly detected and short-lived, but they underscored how much we depend on the internet and how precarious it can be.
First, on June 8, countless websites including Reddit, CNN, Amazon, and many more went offline due to an outage in the Fastly content delivery network. Then on June 17, a glitch at a similar company, Akamai Technologies, broke websites, including those owned by Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The Fastly outage was detected within a minute and lasted less than an hour for most affected websites, while Akamai notified customers of the issue within seconds and was able to resolve it within four hours (and the company said the most affected customers were offline for just minutes).

These aren’t the only big internet outages of the year: In December, Amazon’s cloud computing service suffered three outages that resulted in issues for Disney +, Slack, Netflix, Hulu, and many more. It also disrupted Amazon’s logistics operations during the all-important holiday season.

Facebook is a terrible, horrible, not good, very bad day

Monday, October 4 was dreadful in many ways for the soon-to-be-renamed company Meta.

The day before, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed her identity in a “60-minute” segment, saying the company knew how its social media were being used to spread disinformation, hate speech and violence. (Haugen was previously the anonymous source whose leak of thousands of pages of internal Wall Street Journal documents resulted in a series of damning stories, known as the Facebook Files, starting in September.)
Then on Monday, a major outage shut down Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram for hours, blamed on “configuration changes.” His shares plunged into trading as the company grappled with the dueling issues of a blackout and backlash from Haugen’s TV appearance. And he was preparing for a closer scrutiny of the regulations as Haugen was scheduled to testify the next day before members of Congress. Oh, and that day the company also requested that an antitrust complaint filed against it by the Federal Trade Commission be dismissed.
The day heralded more to come this month. In late October, a consortium of 17 U.S. news agencies began publishing their own stories based on documents included in disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in drafted form by Haugen’s legal counsel. The consortium, which included CNN, reviewed the drafted versions received by Congress. These stories included details of how coordinated groups use Facebook to instigate violence (such as the January 6 insurgency) and how human traffickers use the social network to exploit people. (Facebook has repeatedly tried to discredit Haugen and said his testimony and reporting on the documents misrepresented his actions and efforts.)

Zillow learns a hard lesson about estimating house prices with AI

In November, Zillow announced it would close its home turnaround business, Zillow Offers, citing “the unpredictability of home price forecasts” that “far exceeds” what the company had expected.

The news was a startling admission of defeat for the real estate listing company, which wrote down its inventory by $ 304 million in the third quarter, saw its shares plummet and said it plans to cut 2,000 jobs. a quarter of its staff.

But it also marked a sharp turnaround from the start of the year, when the company seemed so confident in its ability to use AI to estimate home values ​​that it had declared its so-called “Zestimate” would act, for some homes, as a first cash offer to buy a property. It’s not only difficult to buy and sell homes for profit, apparently; it is also very difficult to use AI to make such decisions in the real world.

‘Completely Autonomous’ Tesla Freaks Out Drivers (Including CNN)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has long touted the electric vehicle company’s “fully autonomous driving” software. At the end of 2021, however, it is still not fully autonomous – instead it offers driver assistance features that force users to agree that they must remain vigilant behind the wheel in case they need to take relay. Additionally, only a small number of Tesla drivers have been able to try it out so far, including a group of customers who have paid $ 10,000 each to access the “beta” version of the feature.

And while the feature may sound fantastic, drivers who used it told CNN Business in November that beyond the wow factor, they’re often not sure what their cars will do next – a terrifying prospect when you are driving a vehicle that weighs thousands of pounds. CNN Business tried the feature on a Tesla Model 3 on the streets of New York in November and the results were at times frightening: the software tried to drive the car in a UPS truck to avoid a cyclist, tried to drive the wrong one. side of the road, and nearly hit a fence, among other problems.

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