Sorriest technology companies of 2015

A rundown of the year in apologies from tech vendors and those whose businesses rely heavily on tech.

sorriest tech companies 2015 1
Credit: Thinkstock
Sorry situation

Despite all the technology advances that have rolled out this year, it’s also been a sorry state of affairs among leading network and computing vendors, along with businesses that rely heavily on technology. Apple, Google, airlines and more have issued tech-related mea culpas in 2015…

PAST EDITION: The year in tech industry apologies

Sony says Sorry by saying Thanks
Sony says Sorry by saying Thanks

Network outages caused by DDoS attacks spoiled holiday fun for those who got new PlayStation 4 games and consoles, so Sony kicked off 2015 with an offer of 10% off new purchases, plus an extended free trial for some.

NSA’s backdoor apology
NSA’s backdoor apology

After getting outted by Microsoft and later Edward Snowden for allowing backdoors to be inserted into devices via a key security standard, the NSA sort of apologized. NSA Director of Research Michael Wertheimer, in writing for the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, acknowledges mistakes were made in “The Mathematics Community and the NSA.” He wrote in part: “With hindsight, NSA should have ceased supporting the Dual_EC_DRBG algorithm immediately after security researchers discovered the potential for a trapdoor.

China’s big WeChat messaging service
Credit: Weibo
You probably forgot about this flag controversy

China’s big WeChat messaging service apologized in January for bombarding many of its hundreds of millions of users – and not just those in the United States -- with Stars and Stripes icons whenever they typed in the words “civil rights” on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. WeChat also took heat for not offering any sort of special icons when users typed in patriotic Chinese terms. The special flag icons were only supposed to have been seen by US users of the service.

Go Daddy crosses the line
Credit: Go Daddy
Go Daddy crosses the line

Web site domain provider Go Daddy as usual relied on scantily clad women as well as animals to spread its message during this past winter’s Super Bowl. The surprising thing is that the animals are what got the company in hot water this time. The company previewed an ad that was supposed to parody Budweiser commercials, but its puppy mill punch line didn’t have many people laughing, so the CEO wound up apologizing and pulling the ad.

Name calling at Comcast
Name calling at Comcast

Comcast scrambled to make right after somehow changing the name of a customer on his bill to “(expletive… rhymes with North Pole) Brown” from his actual name, Ricardo Brown. The change took place after Brown’s wife called Comcast to discontinue cable service. The service provider told a USA Today columnist that it was investigating the matter, but in the meantime was refunding the Browns for two years of previous service.

Where to start with Google?
Credit: Google Maps
Where to start with Google?

Google’s Department of Apologies has been busy this year: In January the company apologized when its translation services spit out anti-gay slurs in response to searches on the terms “gay” and “homosexual.” In May, Google apologized after a Maps user embedded an image of the Android mascot urinating on Apple’s logo. This summer, Google has apologized for its new Photos app mislabeling African Americans as “gorillas” and for Google Niantic Labs’ Ingress augmented reality game including the sites of former Nazi concentration camps as points of interest.

Carnegie Mellon admissions SNAFU
Carnegie Mellon admissions SNAFU

Carnegie Mellon University’s Computer Science School in February apologized after it mistakenly accepted 800 applicants to its grad problem, only to send out rejection notices hours later. The irony of a computer glitch leading to this problem at such a renowned computer science school was lost on no one…

Lenovo Superfish debacle
Lenovo Superfish debacle

Lenovo officials apologized in February after it was discovered that Superfish adware packaged with some of its consumer notebooks was not only a pain for users but also included a serious security flaw resulting from interception of encrypted traffic. “I have a bunch of very embarrassed engineers on my staff right now,” said Lenovo CTO Peter Hortensius. “They missed this.” Lenovo worked with Microsoft and others to give users tools to rid themselves of Superfish.

Apple apologizes for tuning out customers
Apple apologizes for tuning out customers

Apple apologized in March for an 11-hour iTunes service and App Store outage that it blamed on “an internal DNS error at Apple,” in a statement to CNBC.

Blame the iPads
Blame the iPads

American Airlines in April apologized after digital map application problems on pilot iPads delayed dozens of flights over a two-day period. The airline did stress that the problem was a third-party app, not the Apple products themselves.

Locker awakened
Locker awakened

The creator of a strain of ransomware called Locker apologized after he “woke up” the malware, which encrypted files on infected devices and asked for money to release them. A week after the ransomware was activated, the creator apparently had a changed of heart released decryption keys needed by victims to unlock their systems.

HTC wants to be Hero
HTC wants to be Hero

Phonemaker HTC’s CEO Cher Wang, according to the Taipei Times in June, apologized to investors in June after the company’s new One M9 flagship phone failed to boost sales. “HTC’s recent performance has let people down,” said Wang, pointing to better times ahead with the planned fall release of a new phone dubbed Hero.

Ketchup for adults only
Ketchup for adults only

Ketchup maker Heinz apologized in June after an outdated contest-related QR code on its bottles sent a German man to an X-rated website. Meanwhile, the website operator offered the man who complained a free year’s worth of access, which he declined.

Livid Reddit users push out interim CEO
Livid Reddit users push out interim CEO

Interim Reddit CEO Ellen Pao apologized in July (“we screwed up”) after the online news aggregation site went nuts over the sudden dismissal of an influential employee known for her work on the site’s popular Ask Me Anything section. Pao shortly afterwards resigned from her post following continued demands for her ouster by site users.

Blame the router
Blame the router

United Airlines apologized (“we experienced a network connectivity issue. We are working to resolve and apologize for any inconvenience.”) in July after being forced to ground its flights for two hours one morning due to a technology issue that turned out to be router-related. United has suffered a string of tech glitches since adopting Continental’s passenger management system a few years back following its acquisition of the airline.

Toshiba
Billion dollar apology

Top Toshiba executives resigned in July following revelations that the company had systematically padded its profits by more than $1 billion over a six-year period. “I recognize there has been the most serious damage to our brand image in our 140-year history,” said outgoing President Hisao Tanaka, who is to be succeeded by Chairman Masashi Muromachi. “We take what the committee has pointed out very seriously, and it is I and others in management who bear responsibility.”