Politics collided with the world of technology this year as stories about U.S. government spying stirred angst both among the country's citizens and foreign governments, and the flawed HeathCare.gov site got American health-care reform off to a rocky start. Meanwhile, the post-PC era put aging tech giants under pressure to reinvent themselves. Here in no particular order are IDG News Service's picks for the top 10 tech stories of the year.
The feds fumble HealthCare.gov
While industry experts say that many if not most big IT projects have major problems, the fumbled Oct. 1 rollout of HealthCare.gov has the dubious distinction of casting a shadow on U.S. President Barack Obama's landmark legislative achievement: the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. Thirty-four states chose to be part of the HealthCare.gov marketplace. The US$630 million website, built to let millions of Americans shop for heath care, was able to sign up a paltry six people on its first day of service, 248 in the first two days and just 27,000 people in the first month. Outages, incorrect data loading and security concerns plagued the site. The problems appear to stem from lack of overall project oversight, insufficient testing, and glitches in the system's ability to link to multiple government databases. On its Dec. 1 self-imposed deadline for fixing the problems, the government reported that since mid-October, tech workers had made more than 400 bug fixes and software improvements to the site. However, remaining kinks include multiple-hour queues to get into the system. The site's woes may end up seeming like a blip on the long road for health-care reform. For now, the site is being held up as exhibit number one in the case against the government's ability to handle the health- care initiative.
Blowing the whistle on the NSA: Big Brother really is watching you
Former government contractor Edward Snowden's revelations about government spying, appearing in news stories starting in June, brought together geopolitics and the world of technology. Though the revelations sparked a lot of "I told you so" talk, documents provided by Snowden helped confirm that the U.S. National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation have for years been conducting massive surveillance of American citizens, foreigners living in the country and foreign government leaders. Though details are still secret, it is clear that the FBI and NSA monitor an unlimited amount of phone records from telecom companies, emails, and other Internet communications and services facilitated by the big tech companies. Critics say aspects of the surveillance, such as the bulk collection of citizens' communications, are unconstitutional. The revelations have prompted the European Union to question its "safe harbor" data privacy agreement with the U.S. They have also caused foreign governments to be wary of buying U.S. technology. Meanwhile Russia has granted Snowden asylum, and there is no end in sight to the debate over government's prying into private communications.
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