No. 1 tech story of 2011: The war for control of the Internet (and your data)

From net neutrality to CarrierIQ to Twitter subpoenas, the battle over digital rights and privacy rages on

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This is the 11th and final post for "My personal, hand-selected top 11 tech stories of 2011." You can read the first 10 by clicking on the links at the bottom.

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The death of Steve Jobs in October marked the passing of an historical figure who built the most valuable tech company in the world.

It was a huge story, and the Apple co-founder's death triggered an emotional response from Apple fans and tech professionals worldwide.

But the most significant tech story of 2011 wasn't about a single event or tragedy. It's an ongoing story whose end has not yet been written, but which impacts the lives of billions.

It's the war for control of both the Internet and your personal data, and it features numerous participants, including:

* Advocates of "net neutrality" who oppose restrictions by either Internet service providers or governments vs. opponents who want to create a system where ISPs could block, slow down or charge more for legitimate content and applications, even content or services the consumer already has paid for. Efforts to overturn the FCC's net neutrality regulations in the U.S. so far have been unsuccessful, but already Verizon is trying to change the rules.

* Mark "The Age of Privacy is Over" Zuckerberg and search giant Google vs. the billions for whom keeping details of your personal life from strangers and your financial and demographic data from marketers and other corporations that want to exploit that information for profit isn't considered antiquated.

After one too many breaches of user privacy, Facebook cut a deal with the Federal Trade Commission in late November that requires it to obtain the consent of users before making a change to any default profile settings that could expose more personal data that you had agreed to. As ITworld privacy blogger Dan Tynan wrote, the FTC agreement likely was motivated more by Facebook's upcoming initial public offering than a genuine new respect for user privacy. Once the IPO goes off, what then? A $5 million fine from the FTC? Ooh.

Google began the year under double-secret probation for collecting private information from vehicles dispersed throughout the world for its Google Street View. But that was a mere technological snafu, nothing nefarious! Honest!

Same with Google Buzz, the social service that made public the personal contacts of Gmail users without their knowledge or consent.

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