28 tech fails that ruined people’s lives

(Pocket-lint) – We all rely heavily on technology these days and why not? Most gadgets are enablers that aid us in our daily lives. Where would we be without our smartphones, tablets, TVs, the internet or an electronic back scratcher?

However, overuse of tech can be dangerous. Plenty of people have fallen foul after putting too much trust into their technical doohickeys.

They’ve found that social media, GPS, Photoshop and many other tech-based tools can turn around and bite them on the behind. And there are many cautionary tales out there that we should all take heed of.

So have a glance through our round-up of the best gadgetry gaffs – some funny, some downright shocking – in order to avoid making the same mistakes. Flick through the gallery above and read stories of technology terror. At the very least, it might make you think twice before hitting send on your next tweet.

Remember technology is there to help and/or entertain us, not give us carte blanche to be irresponsible twonks.

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Ballistic missile false alert

In the early hours of the morning in January 2018, residents of Hawaii were bombarded with notifications via their phones, televisions and radios warning of an inbound ballistic missile and the end of the world. 

A follow-up message broadcast nearly an hour later said the first message was a false alarm. It’s unlikely any lives were ruined by this event, but it no doubt caused some brown trouser moments and unnecessary panic stations. 

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Customer data sold for cash

How many times do we hear about a website or social media site being hacked and user’s data being breached and sold online? It’s so common now it’s almost dull. 

It seems that your personal data might be vulnerable in other ways too. Negligent companies could be the cause in some cases. In one such story, a company had gone out of business and its assets were being sold off. Unfortunately, those assets included multiple computer servers which hadn’t been wiped and contained the data of over 3 million customers. 

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Hoverboards quickly became a bit of a craze back in 2016 and sold by their thousands across the world. Even when they started catching fire and exploding they still continued to sell, but plenty of people fell and hurt themselves too. 

So many in fact, that we rounded up the best hoverboard fails that year including Mike Tyson falling off one. 

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Drones shut down an airport

Lives might not have been ruined, but they were certainly massively inconvenienced in 2018 when consumer drones shut down Gatwick Airport. Drones were spotted dangerously flying near the airport and within the airspace. As a result, planes were grounded and around 1,000 flights had to be cancelled. 

This problem also led to a change in the rules and regulations surrounding drone use, not to mention all sorts of headaches for everyone involved. 

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Model ruined by plastic surgery meme

When model Heidi Yeh posed for an advert for a plastic surgery firm little did she know it would scupper her relationship and career thanks to social networkers.

The ad, which pictured her alongside a male model and three digitally altered children, went viral and shared millions of times. Many commenters then mistakenly thought it was Yeh’s own family pictured, provoking much ridicule. Prospective clients even presumed she had plastic surgery so won’t book her.

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Woman trusts GPS so much she drives into lake

Yes, it was dark and foggy. And yes, a Canadian woman’s satnav presumed there would be a ferry/boat launch sited lakeside.

But surely the 23-year-old who parked her car into a lake in Ontario could have been a bit more aware of her surroundings and trusted technology a little less. Police described her as “a little embarrassed” but she luckily got out unscathed.

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Think before you tweet pt 1

Successful PR woman Justine Sacco became infamous for a short time in 2013 thanks to a tweet she posted on Twitter. Just before her plane left for Cape Town in South Africa, she tweeted what was to be seen as a hugely racist comment, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

It naturally went viral and although she subsequently claimed that it wasn’t meant to be taken literally, the public shaming cost her a job and damaged her health.

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Microsoft AI tweet girl becomes Hitler-loving sex bot

As part of a tech experiment, Microsoft created AI girl Tay to have conversations online in the style of a typical teenager.

However, the company had to pull TayTweets after some of her responses became incredibly offensive, including comments about Hitler, George Bush and incestual sex. No, really.

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Google’s “drop the mic” April Fools joke backfires

Google’s April Fools Day pranks are usually very funny and innovative. However, in 2016 the decision to add a button to Gmail that allowed users to “drop the mic” during conversations seriously backfired.

By pressing the “send + mic drop” button, recipients didn’t just get an email but a GIF of a Minion indeed dropping a mic, a rather insulting gesture. And as the mic drop button was next to the usual send button, reports started coming in of serious, professional emails accidentally having the GIF attached.

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Be careful what you choose as an avatar

Considering that certain software sends emails containing chosen avatars, you should always be wary of selecting a joke one – especially if you want to be taken seriously.

@cluedont might be an amusing Twitter account, but it looks like this particular faux pas was genuine: “So I’ve been applying for jobs from my Hotmail,” one of its tweets read. “Which uses my MSN profile pic, which I’ve realised is actually this.” CV’s from a bear, eh?

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“Swatting” is not funny

For a brief time in 2014, “swatting” became popular. Hoax calls were made to the police, sending armed forces to raid the homes of innocent gamers who posted livestreams of gameplay on service like Twitch.

The raids were then captured in real time on the live feed. Jordan Matthewson was one who was “swatted” by an online troll. It’s not big and it’s not clever.

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Droning on

Raija Ogden collapsed during a triathlon in Western Australia, claiming that she’d been hit by a drone.

There are conflicting reports on whether she was actually hit by the flying device or if she fainted after being startled by one, but needless to say you really should be careful when piloting quadcopters, especially in public places.

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Think before you tweet pt 2

When developers conference goer Hank tweeted what he thought to be harmless, geeky innuendo a fellow attendee decided to publicly shame him. It resulted in both Hank and the accuser, Adria Richards, having their lives ruined.

The tweet read, “I’d fork that guy’s repo”, in reference to forking software in a lewd way. Richards stood up and took the tweeter’s photo and both of them ended up losing their jobs are a vicious online hate campaign.

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Bill Gates would like to CTRL-ALT-DELETEbutton combinations

Microsoft founder Bill Gates admits that opting for a three button key combination to bring up login details and reboot a PC was an error.

“It was a mistake,” he said in 2013. “We could have had a single button, but the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn’t want to give us our single button.”

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Think before you tweet pt 3

Connor Rilley (@TheConnor), decided to celebrate been offered a job by Cisco with a fun and friendly personal Tweet – forgetting that her new employer could also read it.

“Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work,” she wrote. Cisco replied, “Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.” 

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Jennifer Lawrence and the Fappening

Be careful what you take using your smartphone camera. The Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence and a stack of other celebrities found out to their cost that taking private, sexual snaps using their phones was less safe and secure than they thought it to be.

Hackers stole hundreds of nude and suggestive pictures and videos from celebrities’ cloud accounts and posted them online in what is now known as The Fappening.

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Never dare hackers to destroy your life

When Fusion documentary maker Kevin Roose asked two world-class hackers to tear his digital life apart, little did he know just how deeply they could access his information.

He discovered just how easy it was for them to access everything he owned, his money, his technology, his life. They could even spy on him through his own webcam. Luckily, their hacking spree ended as his experiment ceased, but it left him rather more paranoid than ever before.

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Usain Bolt run over by a Segway

After Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt won the 200-metres final at the World Championships in Beijing last year, a cameraman on an actual Segway (not one of those so-called hoverboards) lost control and hurtled into the back of Bolt’s legs.

It could have been much worse, Bolt escaped relatively unscathed, so it didn’t exactly ruin his life. We’re not sure about the cameraman though.

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Panama Papers might have been grabbed through WordPress bug

Although many claim that the Panama Papers were seized through an email hack, it could be something far simpler to blame. The website of law firm Mossack Fonseca runs on WordPress and the company hadn’t updated the software for several months.

This lead to an exploit being allegedly found in an unpatched plugin which security firms believe could have been used to get to the hugely sensitive materials. Don’t forget to update your software website owners.

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Google self-driving car injures employees in crash

Strangely enough, you’d think that self-driving cars would crash often, but the only reported case of injury came when another, driver controlled car crashed into Google’s autonomous vehicle.

The three employees inside the Google mobile were taken to hospital with minor injuries. Ironically, it’s humans at fault this time, not the tech itself.

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Never use Facebook to announce a crime

When Ohio couple John Mogan and Ashley Duboe posted selfies on Facebook flaunting cash, they clearly didn’t realise that the police were already onto them for a bank raid.

They essentially handed them the extra evidence needed for a conviction. Thanks social media.

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X-Factor’s Olly Murs announces wrongresult

At the end of each episode of X-Factor, two contestants have to perform again in a sing-off to convince the judges to keep them in the show.

In 2015, Presenter Olly Murs though mistook the judges’ decision and accidentally revealed that Monica Michael was leaving the show early. However, because the judges hadn’t decided on her fate, it went to the public vote and the signer was indeed sent home, leaving Murs with egg on his face even though his gaff eventually turned out to be correct. 

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MI6 chief’s details posted on Facebook

When Sir John Sawyers became the new head of the MI6 Secret Intelligence Service in 2009 maybe he should have explained to his wife the level of privacy that would subsequently be required.

What she absolutely shouldn’t do is post personal information and pictures of him on Facebook. Which she did.

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Fifth Harmony singer has two right feet

Thousands of fans took to Twitter when they saw a press image of girl group Fifth Harmony had been poorly Photoshopped.

Singer Ally Brooke seemed to have two right feet in the photo. Brooke herself saw the funny side posting the picture with the comment, “When you’re tryna look cute even tho you got two right feet.”


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Facebook scandals

Facebook has made a few faux pas recently. The one that stands out in most people’s minds is the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Where Facebook has essentially been used by foreign Governments to shape the political make-up on other nations. 

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Brexit have the power and influence of Facebook to thank. But generally, people are less and less trusting of Facebook and the company’s apparent laissez-faire attitude towards user’s privacy. 

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The Apple Homepod smart home speaker launched as Apple’s answer to the Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers, but the new device came with problems. First world problems but problems nonetheless. 

The new device was quickly found to be leaving ring marks on wooden surfaces. The new problem was swiftly dubbed ringgate and although it didn’t ruin people’s lives, it certainly raised some eyebrows. 


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Accidental Zoom filters

You’ve heard this story a few times now. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were plenty of occurrences of people being publicly shamed (or at least laughed at) for joining public Zoom calls with filters applied. We’ve seen a lawyer as a cat, a boss as a potato and all sorts. Usually, these people claim they don’t know how it happened or how to turn it off and we’re cynical about the truth behind that but it’s still certainly amusing. 

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Cyberpunk 2077 on console

It might seem a bit excessive to say that a game release ruined people’s lives, but it certainly caused all sorts of issues. When CD PROJEKT RED rushed out the delivery of Cyberpunk 2077 and released a game that was plagued with bugs on console – especially older generations it lead to all manner of problems. The company’s stock price took a massive hit, PlayStation and Microsoft were forced to remove it from their stores and players around the world were utterly let down by the fiasco. 

Later the company was also hacked by people who were presumably upset by the whole thing and this caused even more nightmares. It’s safe to say things did not go well for the company or its staff after the game’s launch. 

Writing by Rik Henderson and Adrian Willings.

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