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Friday fun for the IT crowd: A scandalous week for tech

October 17, 2014

Some hot tech companies cooled their wheels with bad news this week. First, online car company Uber drew negative attention this week with an ‘F’ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Illustrating the BBB's point that Uber is unresponsive to complaints, the company created a stir when it characterized a passenger's tale of an alleged kidnapping as an “inefficient route”—and gave the woman a partial refund for her trouble.

Private photo service Snapchat also compounded a serious problem with an unforced error. After third-party applications used stolen credentials to steal users' private photos from the site, the company released a statement blaming the users for trusting the applications. Snapchat side-stepped complaints it has not allowed trusted third-party apps like Twitter access to its API, thus creating a need for users to share their credentials with other apps. And as always, Reddit got into the action, with some users posting and sharing the stolen photos, many of which were private for good reason.

Then Airbnb ran afoul of New York City’s attorney general, whose data analysis of user activity data—dragged out of Airbnb in court—revealed 72 percent of the city’s listings were likely illegal. The attorney general concluded some buildings in which more than 60 percent of rooms were rented through Airbnb were acting as de facto hotels, and pledged to go after the worst offenders. He also implied Airbnb itself might owe tens of millions in hotel occupancy taxes.

Finally, the Gamergate controversy came to a head after death threats (and a lack of appropriate security measures at the site) prompted a prominent feminist academic to cancel a speaking engagement. For those who don’t know, Gamergate is a loose group of video game enthusiasts who believe gaming journalists have a corrupt relationship with women critics and developers. Gamergate adherents are particularly incensed about the growing attention paid to women’s issues (such as misogyny embedded in some games) and gaming development’s often-sexist culture.

Gamergate received widespread attention after actor Stephen Baldwin advanced their cause vocally on Twitter to his 38,000 followers. The backlash against the group’s tactics, which have included hacking and threats, spawned a media storm that focused attention on the gaming industry’s practices. We can hope that the silver lining will be a cooler—and more rational—discussion of diversity issues in gaming. 

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Lisa Dare is a marketing writer for TEKsystems who enjoys learning about IT from some of the smartest folks in tech. She frequently blogs about IT career advice and the lighter side of tech, and on her off days loves to kayak and play with her toddler son.

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