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Google, Groupon and 3D glasses: technology in 2010

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Privacy was also an issue as mobile apps that sensed (and broadcast) your location became popular. Suddenly everybody was "mayor" of their local Starbucks or A&W — at least until the next "mayor" came along. acebook tried to seize some of FourSquare's territory with its own Facebook Places application. But the results were ambivalent. Many Facebook users still seemed a bit leery of letting everybody know where they were at any particular time.

Even governments had privacy problems in 2010. The Wikileaks website, which had been operating for several years, quietly releasing government and corporate information, burst into the spotlight this year, when it leaked hundreds of thousands of government cables relating to Afghanistan and elsewhere. A minor cyberwar resulted as various large internet players, such as Paypal and Amazon, made life more difficult for Wikileaks and, in turn, the Anonymous group made life more difficult for Paypal, et al. A lively debate ensued about where to draw the line between a government's need for confidentiality and its citizens' right to information.

A couple of Rutgers University students crossed the privacy line when they posted live webcam footage of the roommate of one of the students having sex with another man. The roommate committed suicide, and the other two students faced a number of charges as well as web-based calls for vigilante justice. A British woman who put a cat in a trash can was also subjected to internet mob justice. And cyberbullying continued to make the news: students posted nasty comments about each other and about their teachers. Parents posted nasty comments about their children's classmates. Police forces posted names and addresses of people who have been charged with (not convicted of) offences. Newspaper websites started shutting down their comments sections because of abusive comments.

As the New York Times noted:

"Even some corners of Facebook, whose motto is to “connect and share with the people in your life,” are emerging as a virtual pillory, where the actions of online pariahs are parsed and commented upon, judged against the mores of the real world, often with little context or compassion.

“If you cast stones and see people are bloodied and crying, you might think you’ve gone too far,” said Daniel J. Solove, the author of “The Future of Reputation” and a privacy-law professor at George Washington University. “The problem is, you don’t see that online.”

And yet a Wired Magazine editor called for the Internet to be given the Nobel Peace Prize.

Oh well, there's always shopping. And what better way to do so than through the Internet? Coupons went electronic — and viral — in 2010. Groupon came out of nowhere to show how combining the local and the virtual could lead to some great shopping and dining deals. And the big guys took note: Google made an abortive attempt to buy Groupon, while closer to home, Postmedia started offering its own electronic coupons through a service called Swarm-Jam.com. Vancouver company ethicalDeal added a green twist to the concept, offering coupons for sustainable, local businesses.

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