The tech industry, once again, hatched some of the hottest business stories of the year, piquing interests on privacy, enormous wealth creation and supersized falls from prominence.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's leak of confidential documents exposed the biggest government data-snooping scandal in decades. The revelations did such damage to people's little remaining trust in government that fears of the agency have become part of a greater U.S. consciousness. It also raised concerns over privacy-challenged consumer technology giants such as of Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and Microsoft.
What's more, the roughly 200,000 classified documents from Snowden are still coming out. It's been suggested that the worst payloads of privacy bombshells have yet to come. The NSA has been reportedly gathering data from 5 billion mobile phone records daily along with snooping in e-mails on a massive scale.
U.S. demands for Snowden's return from Russia, a subject of U.S. spying efforts and where he lives under temporary asylum, make this tale only more twisted. It's made for Hollywood, with little surprise studios are eyeing bids on the script.
Investors' fascination with the digital currency Bitcoin drove its value past $1,000 in 2013, up from $13.50 on Jan. 1.
Bitcoins were launched onto the Internet in 2009 by an anonymous cryptography expert or group named Satoshi Nakamoto. The currency lives on a decentralized network of computers. Bitcoins can be sent among buyers and sellers using digital addresses and safe-keeping wallets secured by passwords, and marketplace sites have emerged to sell them.
The currency can be used to purchase goods and services from a limited few early adopter merchants. It remains to be seen whether Bitcoins will become a new gold-like alternative investment standard or the next tulip-bulb bubble.
Twitter's long-expected IPO launched a new wave of enthusiasm for social media investments. Its stock pop provided validation for its business, a $25 billion valuation and a wake of market hype and fresh doubts. To be sure, Twitter has cemented its place as a media-distribution powerhouse. It's become the world's gathering place for messages capable of toppling governments or blowing up stocks.
And with a successful IPO behind, Twitter has just begun to show how it will use its enormous data on members in new advertising forms. Wall Street scrutiny awaits its quarterly earnings reports.
What kicks off curiosity like an Apple product rumor? Google floating mysterious barges in the San Francisco Bay with unknown purposes, that's what. The move set off a frenzy of speculation from Silicon Valley to beyond as to what Google had up its sleeve. (continued...)
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