The biggest privacy scandals of 2013

2013 was the year we finally got what we've all been waiting for: Real privacy rights across the Net. It was long overdue.

Due to an apparent rift in the space-time continuum caused by a Near Earth Object passing in close proximity to the TARDIS, a blog post written almost exactly one year from today has mysteriously appeared in the ITworld content management system. We can make no claim as to its veracity, but reprint it here as a curiosity – and possibly a warning. — Editors 

Well, 2013 was predicted to be a watershed year for the Internet and personal privacy, and it certainly lived up to its billing. But there were more than a few scandalous moments along the way. These are, without a doubt, the biggest privacy stories of 2013.

There was perhaps no more important story in 2013 than the hacking of the United States Congress by Anonymous and its various cohorts. By exposing deeply personal details about each and every elected official on Capitol Hill, the Anons revealed just how much data is collected on ordinary Americans – and how powerless most of us are to do anything about it.

More than a dozen House members were forced to resign after their browser histories revealed visits to illegal porn sites and Bit Torrent hubs; six US Senators are currently undergoing ethics investigations after the Anons traced their locations via cell phones, exposing several extra-marital affairs, as well as regular visits to casinos and houses of ill repute.

All those shenanigans had a positive result, though: the Comprehensive Restore America’s Privacy act of 2013, which placed strict limits on the types and amount of data that could be collected and how long it can be retained. The CRAP Act passed both houses by an overwhelming margin and was signed into law by President Obama last March.

Easily the next biggest story was the massive malware attack on the US power grid, which caused scattered widespread power outages across North America starting last June. The malware was delivered by operatives assumed to be under the control of Iranian or Chinese intelligence agencies. In September, the Pentagon announced sweeping measures designed to harden our nation’s cyber infrastructure by the year 2024, and certainly no later than 2037. 

In consumer privacy news, researchers at Stanford unearthed a series of confidential memos between executives in the Internet advertising and data mining industries. The documents revealed how none of them ever had any intention of complying with the FTC’s Do Not Track directives; instead, they conspired to string out the process as long as possible in the hope that a new administration would be elected in 2012 and the entire matter shelved.

After Obama was re-elected and adoption of third-party anti-tracking products reached record levels, the ad industry was forced to admit defeat and meekly comply with FTC guidelines regarding consumer choice, resulting in revenue losses of nearly 0.03 percent.

As long predicted, surveillance drone technology became inexpensive enough for daily use by local police and private parties. This however, was matched by the appearance of anti-drone surface-to-air missiles that could be controlled via an iPhone app. As an air war raged above the skies of American cities, most municipalities agreed to ban the use of the unmanned vehicles for all but emergency rescue scenarios.

Other big headlines: In an 140-character press release last July, Twitter announced it had applied for membership in the United Nations. Google agreed to take over management of the NSA’s new Data Center in the Utah desert, saying it already indexed most of the information that’s stored inside it. And in November, Mark Zuckerberg quietly deleted his own Facebook account, saying he was tired of having his News Feed polluted with ads and inane BS from people he’d never met.

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