Sorriest technology companies of 2014

Here's a rundown of the Year in Apologies to date, and somehow I have a feeling it will need to be updated before Dec. 31.
  • Bob Brown (Network World)
  • 30 September, 2014 01:11

It's so far been another sorry, sorry year in the technology industry, with big name companies, hot startups and individuals making public mea culpas for their assorted dumb, embarrassing and other regrettable actions.

Here's a rundown of the Year in Apologies to date, and somehow I have a feeling it will need to be updated before Dec. 31. (Also: 2013 and 2012 Sorriest Tech company lists.)

But first, a little mood music, courtesy of Bob Mould, performing I Apologize in Boston while I was working on this collection:

Apple: iOS mess

Apple stunk up its own iPhone 6 party by issuing a buggy version of iOS 8 followed up with an even buggier patch, dubbed iOS 8.0.1. Apple quickly pulled the plug on the patch, guided customers how to undo it and yes, offered an apology: "We apologise for the great inconvenience experienced by users, and are working around the clock to prepare iOS 8.0.2 with a fix for the issue." 

Snapchat: Exposed

2013 ended with industry watchers being wowed that Snapchat had reportedly turned down a $3B takeover offer from Facebook. But Snapchat was looking a lot less invincible in January 2014 when it was revealed that the popular photo messaging app had been breached and that millions of user names/phone numbers were exposed on the Web. The company acknowledged its flawed security on Jan. 2, but waited another week before issuing a formal apology about it.

Google: Nazi problem

Google apologized in January after a Berlin, Germany intersection known today as Theodor-Heuss-Platz was mistakenly listed as Adolf-Hitler-Platz on Google Maps. Edits submitted to the site by users were mistakenly approved by "mapping volunteers or Google moderators," according to a statement from Google published by Yahoo News. "In this particular case, the change in the street name was mistakenly approved, and we fixed it as soon as we were made aware. We apologize for any offense caused," the statement read.

Dropbox: About that outage

The file sharing site suffered an outage on Jan. 10 that affected some customers for a few others but others off and on throughout the weekend. Speculation swirled that it was a DDoS attack intended to make a statement a year after the death of programmer and Internet activist Aaron Swartz, but Dropbox fessed up that it caused its own problem during a routine server upgrade that went awry: "We know that many of you rely on Dropbox every day -- we pride ourselves on reliability, and any downtime is unacceptable. In response, we're currently building more tools and checks to make sure this doesn't happen again... We're sorry for the trouble this caused, and we thank you for your patience and support."

Pop-up Ad Guy: 'Nuff said

MIT Media Lab's Ethan Zuckerman wrote an essay for The Atlantic in August in which he apologized for ruining the Web by coming up with the idea for the pop-up ad while with an early Internet company called Tripod. "I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it. I'm sorry. Our intentions were good."

Yahoo: Over and over

Yahoo ended 2013 with a 5-day-long email outage that affected some 1 million users and that forced CEO Marissa Mayer to apologize. The company followed that up with an unsportsmanlike tweet about Gmail going down in January, and then shortly after that apologized to its customers for email troubles stemming from what it deemed a coordinated attack ("We regret this has happened and want to assure our users that we take the security of their data very seriously."). For good measure, the Yahoo mail network went down again in February, prompting another apology.

Target: CIO pays for it

Target's CEO apologized in December for the massive credit card data breach that affected as many as 110 million customers. The CFO apologized in February before the U.S. Senate, stating: "I want to say how deeply sorry we are for the impact this incident has had on our guests--your constituents. We will work with you, the business community and other thought leaders to find effective solutions to this ongoing and pervasive challenge...We will learn from this incident and, as a result, we hope to make Target, and our industry, more secure for customers in the future." That was followed, dramatically, by the resignation of the company's CIO in March.

Samsung Electronics: Unhealthy

The semiconductor and phone maker in May offered its "sincerest apology" for the sickness and deaths of some of its workers, vowing to compensate those affected and their families. "Some of Samsung's former employees have passed away after contracting leukemia or are coping with difficult-to-treat diseases after having worked at our manufacturing facility," the company said in an emailed statement. Samsung's apology came in response to a proposal by families and the Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry (SHARPS) group. So far there have been 26 victims of blood cancers (leukemia and lymphoma) reported to SHARPS, who worked in Samsung's Gi-Heung and On-Yang semiconductor plants in Korea. Ten have died, the group said on it site in May. Chemicals as well as cleanrooms that protect wafers more than workers are among the factors cited in causing sickness.

The Home Depot: You may have heard...

The Home Depot started off its Sept. 21 letter to customers with "As you may have heard, on September 8, 2014, we confirmed that our payment systems have been breached, which could potentially impact customers using payment cards at our U.S. and Canadian stores... We apologize for the frustration and anxiety this may cause you and we thank you for your patience during this time." Yes, we're guessing most of those customers had heard of this historically large security breach.

Facebook: Summer doldrums

While everyone likes to have some summer downtime, that doesn't really work if you're a social network giant like Facebook that millions of people (and by people we're including advertisers) count on. But Facebook's network was up and down all summer, with big outages in May, June, August and September. The outages were caused by various issues, with September's the result of "an error while making an infrastructure configuration change..." Faceback faced up to the problem: "We apologize for the inconvenience and will thoroughly investigate this issue so we can learn from it and ensure that Facebook is there when people need it."

Microsoft: Earns praise

Microsoft has taken its share of slams in the past for unsatisfactory operating system software and obligatory cloud outages, but this past summer the company earned praise from customers for what they described as a "refreshingly direct" explanation of why the cloud-based Visual Studio Online offering went offline in some regions during mid-August. Corporate VP Brian Harry actually acknowledged sloppiness on Microsoft's part.

Google & Verizon: Chromebook crisis

Computerworld reported in June that Google was giving Chromebook customers a $150 credit after acknowledging that data plans for the LTE Chromebook Pixel were being cut off prematurely. Verizon had turned off the 100MB per month fire hose halfway through the two-year contract, leaving Google to do the right thing even though "the issue is outside of our control." Verizon apologized for the problem and said it was looking to solve the problem for customers whose service was cut off early.