2018 has been an exceptional year for several reasons and the world of tech never had a dull moment. Unfortunately, in terms of producing new technology or reaching the bar set by predictions, it did not deliver. But in terms of drama, it made up for the shortage of productivity several times over.
Cambridge Analytica and the Zuckerberg Testimony
The Cambridge Analytica scandal spearheaded Facebook’s spectacular fall from grace. This scandal culminated in 2018 when officials found links to British political company Cambridge Analytica. This company had allegedly harvested the data of millions of users on Facebook and used it for political means. Misinformation, false news, political slandering, rumors about opponents, and hate campaigns were some of the tools the company used. In early 2018, US law enforcement agencies discovered that the company played a significant role in rigging the 2016 presidential elections. This led the fateful moment when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress on April 11.
Stop infantilizing Mark Zuckerberg! Also, here’s his booster seat. (Photographs by Evy Mages.) pic.twitter.com/MeKwDZwIEF
— Andrew Beaujon (@abeaujon) April 10, 2018
In July, the UK’s Information Commissioner fined Facebook fined 500,000 pounds for failing to protect users’ data. Cambridge Analytica had played a vital role in the Brexit referendum as well. Facebook tried to appeal the fine in November and is still awaiting the results.
Facebook Stock Market Crash
The biggest single-day loss in the history of the stock market happened to Facebook in late July 2018. Its shares fell 19%. This happened after Facebook told its investors that it would spend more on data security and user privacy. It vaporized around $119 billion in market value. Critics believed the loss had moral lessons. However, it did not end the tech giant, which has survived market plummets before.
Facebook experienced loss after loss in 2018. From Cambridge Analytica to The New York Times article on Facebook deliberately misusing data, the past year was not been kind to the social media giant.
The Bitcoin Plummet
In December 2017, one single Bitcoin was worth around twenty thousand US dollars. However, by the first few months of 2018, the bubble burst. Hundreds of billions of dollars in value disappeared by the end of 2018. Now, a Bitcoin is worth a mere $4000, its value decreasing by a hefty 77% over the year. In comparison, 2017 had seen Bitcoin increase in value by 1200% from around a thousand dollars to thirteen thousand dollars.
Facebook Data Download Fiasco
As a result of the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook gave its users the ability to download their data. In late March, users were quick to take advantage of the opportunity. However, things got weird. Many opened their zip folders to find the data they voluntarily put on their profile. But others were surprised to find data that Facebook shouldn’t have. Some people even claimed on social media that they found their call and text history in the files. Although it is still not clear how accurate such claims are, the public fear over data security is very real.
Google Employees Walking Out Against Sexual Harassment
November started with a fresh take on how corporate leaders handled sexual harassment. Tech giant Google saw a global employee walkout to protest its policies. It was revealed that the company had previously pressure victims to take deals and drop charges. When employees found out that Google gave an exit package to a harasser, they protested in force. They demanded both an end to arbitration in such cases and more transparency. Google had no choice but to make historic changes to its corporate policy:
— Google Walkout For Real Change (@GoogleWalkout) November 1, 2018
Elon Musk’s Misleading Tweets
In August, Musk tweeted he would secure enough funds to make Tesla private. Tesla never revealed who was funding the privatization. Everyone later found out it was no one. Musk had broken SEC rules; the Securities in Exchange Commission alleged that he misled investors. This led the company’s stock to plummet. In response, Musk agreed he would step down from being Chairman of Tesla. He also agreed to pay a 20 million dollar fine.
Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 7, 2018
Musk’s controversies actually began even earlier, in July 2018. In a tweet, he called a Thai cave rescuer a pedophile. Musk had to later apologize for it.
Nonetheless, his actions against me do not justify my actions against him, and for that I apologize to Mr. Unsworth and to the companies I represent as leader. The fault is mine and mine alone.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 18, 2018
5G Starts to Get Real
5G is the new mobile networking technology ready to take the world by storm. This new tech will provide network speeds from ten to a hundred times that of the 4G LTE we have today. Access to this new and better network has slowly become a reality in 2018. In late November and early December, carriers AT&T and Verizon tried their hand at launching 5G tech for the first time. This meant that the two were taking the task seriously. The race for being the first carrier to bring 5G into the market is attractive. AT&T launched its 5G a couple days ago. For Verizon and the rest, the race is still on.
Google CEO Questioned by Congress
In mid-December, Google CEO Sundar Pichai was asked to testify in front of US Congressional lawmakers. This testimony came as part of a series of events proving it is time for greater accountability from those in the big tech. Pichai was testifying on the allegations regarding bias in his company. Several Google employees had previously made it public that they were against Google subtly working on a separate search engine for Chinese users. They were calling it “Project Dragonfly.” Apparently, the Chinese government had struck a deal with Google to get a censored version of their search engine. However, those in official positions believed that by complying with the anti-democratic demands of the Chinese government, Google was displaying bias towards the freedom its users should have access to.
The interrogation did not go so well. Pichai successfully evaded the questions representatives asked about Project Dragonfly. Moreover, the lawmakers displayed a lack of knowledge about technology, leading to some nonsensical questions and comments. Out of the several, the winner was the one by Republican Congressman Steve King. He complained about a message popping up on an iPhone, to which Pichai replied:
“The iPhone is made by a different company.”
The entire event was embarrassing.
Canada Arrested Huawei CFO
In December 2018, the year concluded with a bang in the tech world. Canadian authorities arrested Huawei CFO, Meng Wanzhou on US extradition charges. Wanzhou had apparently broken US sanctions by using parts made in US to assemble products that they sold to Iran. With respect to the US sanctions on Iran, this was a serious breach. Wanzhou was also apparently involved in bank fraud. This meant she broke a UN law.
However, Huawei is one of the strongest Chinese companies in the tech world. Therefore, blatantly arresting its CFO resulted in a diplomatic crisis. Before the crisis deepened, Wanzhou was released on bail. We’ll see what 2019 brings.
Fortnite Ruled 2018
The world of pop culture and viral stories has collectively agreed that Fortnite won 2018. The impact Fortnite has had on video gaming is extraordinary. But the impact it has had on the Internet and Western culture as a whole is also astonishing. The biggest proof of this is Marvel partnering with Fortnite for its game Infinity Gauntlet.
The world is now doing a Fortnite dance moves. Saturday Night Live has done a skit on Fortnite. News channels around the world have mentioned the game in countless stories. YouTube rewind talked about it – and even Drake mentioned it. Business Insider reports that 80 million people played the game in August 2018. Bloomberg also claims that the game made around 2 billion US dollars in 2018. Fortnite is no longer just a game but a fully fledged cultural phenomenon.
In a nutshell, this year has been a roller coaster ride for the tech arena. From arrests to rises and falls, 2018 has seen a little bit of everything.
So, which one startled you the most?