System hacks were overshadowed by major personal revelations in 2017, a year that saw workplace secrets of sexual harassment, discrimination, and assault more broadly brought into the light than ever before.
The January Women’s March, motivated by President Donald Trump’s misogynist comments and behavior, prompted many women to speak out about the professional harassment and discrimination they’ve experienced. They came to be known as the “Silence Breakers” and were highlighted as Time’s “Person of the Year.”
It was a year filled with many secrets dragged into the open–secrets that rocked consumers, the government, major corporations, and entire industries. Wikileaks published a huge stash of Central Intelligence Agency documents; Americans’ most valuable information was stolen from Equifax; reporters pulled back the curtain on Uber’s very dysfunctional workplace; and White House leaks have gone from a drip to a deluge. It has been an exhausting and informative year. Here are some of the most compelling data drops in 2017:
Verizon Hack: A security setting error left Verizon consumer data public. Information about six million customers was leaked online, including names, addresses, emails, phone numbers, and PIN numbers–used as a security measure for over the phone assistance. The information enabled a potential hacker to make changes to customer accounts.
WikiLeaks CIA hack/stash: On March 7, Wikileaks released 7,818 CIA documents along with 943 attachments. The largest leak of CIA information ever revealed spying tools and strategies the agency employs, including the use of smart televisions to monitor conversations, exploits for getting onto a suspect’s phone (not an iPhone though) and intercepting communications before they’re encrypted, and malware. The CIA said the leak was damaging insofar as it revealed information about the way the agency conducts surveillance, allowing targets to better insulate themselves from such attacks.
Equifax: The hack on credit reporting agency Equifax left vulnerable names, social security and credit card numbers, and birthdates of 143 million people. The incident was remarkable not only for the number of people that were affected, but because the attack hit people’s most important personal information.
Paradise Papers: This major leak of 1.4 terabytes of financial information focused on offshore bank accounts connected to high profile public officials including U.S. commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, one of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s aides, Prince Charles, and Lord Ashcroft. The resulting stories demonstrated the ways in which the wealthy evade taxes, obscure money laundering schemes, and hide potential conflicts of interest.
The Trouble With Uber
Uber: There were so many things to learn about Uber this year, I had to break it into its own bulleted list.
- Susan Fowler’s allegations of sexual harassment, a grossly negligent human resources department, and a toxic work culture served as the starting point for a cascade of workplace sexual harassment stories that found their way into blog posts and news articles this year. She served as the first to speak, unleashing a reckoning across industries against sexual harassment.
- A New York Times report details a law enforcement evading program called Greyball.
- Former girlfriends of then Uber CEO Travis Kalanick came forward to tell the press about company outings that Uber’s execs attended at a Korean karaoke escort bar. One employee filed a complaint about the outing with H.R.
- Waymo’s lawsuit against Otto and Uber employee Anthony Levandowski gave onlookers a peek into Levandowski’s and Kalanick’s relationship, as well as the way the company uses ephemeral encrypted messaging platforms to keep secret aspects of its operations and technology.
- Reportage from Recode revealed that Uber top management acquired the rape record of a woman who was accosted in India. There was purportedly some disbelief among Uber execs that the incident was credible, even though a court found the assailant guilty.
- New Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi revealed a 2016 hack that left 57 million riders and drivers vulnerable. The admission has led to several state and federal investigations.
Harvey Weinstein: Many high-profile women including Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Salma Hayek, Paz de la Huerta, Brit Marling, Lupita Nyong’o, and Molly Ringwald told their personal histories with Miramax film head Harvey Weinstein. The allegations of rape, sexual harassment, intimidation, and threats marked a watershed moment for women across the country, sparking the #metoo movement that has led to the resignation of many men, across industries.
White House Leaks: Since Donald Trump took office, streams of unsanctioned information have poured out of the White House. Most of it has surrounded Trump’s ties to Russia. In January, BuzzFeed published an unverified dossier that indicated Russian operatives may have access to damaging personal information on Trump. The administration called the contents of the documents false. But other leaks (and non-leaks like fleeting White House comms director Anthony Scaramucci’s strange conversation with the New Yorker ) continue to hound the administration, giving the impression of poorly coordinated operations. Here are some of the highlights:
- The Washington Post first reported on Michael Flynn’s conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Months later, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about these conversations.
- Former FBI Director James Comey leaked his own memo to a friend and in turn to the New York Times after he was fired.
- Embarrassing details surrounding many White House departures emerged, including Michael Flynn, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, and Omarosa Newman.
- Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush painstakingly detailed President Trump’s solipsistic rule (and a propensity to tantrum and guzzle diet Coke) and White House chief of staff John Kelly’s attempts to contain an otherwise erratic leader.
- Plans to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were laid bare.