The worst IT disasters of 2009

There were a lot of high points in tech this year, but some pretty big screw ups, too. Here are our top 10 IT failures of the year.

If we had a separate category for social media failures, Habitat's June campaign would be duking it out with Facebook's privacy controversy (see below) for the top spot. In June this year, the furniture retailer used Twitter "hashtags" to drive traffic to a website promoting its spring sale.

Fair enough, except that the company used unrelated tags, including "iPhone" and most controversially of all, the Iranian election.

Predictably, the campaign promoted a backlash among Twitter users. At Habitat, someone the company described as an "overenthusiastic intern" paid with his job.

Facebook privacy failures

Social networking site Facebook made the headlines several times during the year because of privacy issues. The most serious came towards the end of the year, when the site updated its settings, claiming to make them easier to use.

But the update changed users' own privacy settings to Facebook's pre-programmed "recommended" defaults, leaving millions of users' private information accessible to the public. Savvy users quickly changed their settings back, but not before Facebook had made it on to television news, for all the wrong reasons.

Digital Britain and the broadband tax

In January this year, Lord Stephen Carter held out the promise of broadband for all by 2012. Subsequent clarifications revealed that the universal target was a relatively pedestrian 2Mbps, to be provided in part over cellular networks.

Other countries, meanwhile, left the UK in their wake: Sweden covers 10 per cent of its population with fibre broadband, and is testing speeds of 150mbps. Meanwhile, Chancellor Alistair Darling confirmed, in his pre-Budget report, that a 50p a month levy on phone lines will be used to fund the roll out.

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