This past year has not been stellar for iconic technology companies. Scandals and controversies have rocked the high-tech industry, and even the venture capital system that gave most of the high-tech giants their start. But which of these incidents was actually the worst, at least in the public mind?

To find out, the used car online marketplace Instamotor conducted a survey of 600 Americans who describe themselves as "frequent" followers of technology news. Here's what they thought were the worst things that happened in the tech industry this year. You can find the full list here.

1. Social media execs testify about Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

It's pretty much a no-brainer that Russian interference in the U.S. election tops any list of technology fails this year, at least in terms of consequences. Even after many news stories, it's hard to comprehend the scale of the operation. Facebook says that 126 million people were exposed to content created by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian government-linked agency that specializes in deploying trolls to Internet sites and spreading false information. Twitter said it found 2,752 Internet Research Agency accounts on its service. It's hard not to be horrified at numbers like these.

2. Equifax breach exposes personal information of 143 million Americans.

The Equifax breach is right up there with the Russian election scandal, possibly because more than 44 percent of the U.S. population was directly affected by it. There's been a lot of fallout, including the swift retirement of the company's CEO. On the other hand, the federal government still trusts the company to keep our tax data safe and shortly after the breach scandal signed a $725 million contract with the company to "verify taxpayer identity and to assist in ongoing identity verification and validations needs." Yikes. That should be a whole separate scandal. 

3. Hackers steal personal information on 57 million Uber drivers and customers, and the company pays to keep it secret.

It's been a terrible year for the powerful ride-sharing unicorn. The company suffered a sexual harassment scandal, pointed questions about its corporate culture, and the crash of a self-driving car among other things, all of which led to the resignation of founder CEO Travis Kalanick, who was replaced with the more level-headed Dara Khosrowshahi back in September.

You'd think we'd be done with bad news about Uber for the year, but no such luck. Just before Thanksgiving, the world learned that last year hackers stole personally identifiable information on 57 million of the company's customers and drivers. The hackers demanded $100,000 to delete that information. Astonishingly, Uber not only paid the ransom but also required the hackers to sign non-disclosure agreements in the hope of keeping the entire incident secret.

It's a testament to how bad 2017 was for tech scandals that Uber and its various foul-ups appear so low on this list. In a more normal year, they would likely have been number 1.

Published on: Nov 30, 2017