The yearly roundup: Most important tech and business stories of 2018
The last year has been a turbulent one in tech; for each technological innovation there’s a host of complex news stories that help us redefine how we use tech.
From huge data leaks to laws and rulings that re-interpret the internet, it’s clear some of the biggest tech stories of the last few years have had new installments in 2018. But with so many similar events happening (it seems every week brings a new data leak!) it can be hard remembering what happened even a few months ago.
Here’s our pick of 2018’s most defining moments in the world of tech and business.
The most important tech and business stories of 2018
Until 2018, most social media users had been safe under the assumption that the information they shared online was secure. Then Christopher Wylie blew the whistle on Facebook’s collaboration with data analytics form Cambridge Analytica, and the way we view the internet was turned on its head.
Through deviously skirting Facebook’s rules, the company created an app which harvested the data of everyone that used it, and all their friends, which led to them obtaining the data of between 50 and 87 million users. This data was then used in various political campaigns, including the 2016 US election and the Brexit referendum, and may well have had a hand in the way those two events turned out.
Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal came out, the way we view massive social media platforms have changed radically. People are now aware — to an extent, at least — the value companies place in their personal data, and the way targeted advertising can have a huge impact on political leaning. However this isn’t the only story on this list about data misuse, so clearly we’re still learning about online information.
Every few years there’s a game that captures the imagination not just of hardcore gamers but basically everyone with a pulse. Minecraft did it, as did Candy Crush and Call of Duty to an extent. Fortnite is the latest, and its impact goes far beyond its players.
Some of the effects Fortnite has had include convincing Sony to introduce cross-console play, undermining Nintendo Switch Online and the Google Play Store, and inspiring a new generation of game developers to work out how to make games. There are some negative effects too, with 5% of divorces this year citing the game, as well as tabloid news sources publishing myriad articles of how the game turned children into mindless sociopaths (which should be taken with the biggest pinch of salt in the world).
The game’s showing no signs of slowing down, and was recently voted as the best game of the year by the Golden Joystick awards.
One of the most sensationalist news stories of the year is that of Article 13, the EU copyright law that some refer to as the “meme ban”. However behind hyperbolic descriptions of the apocalyptic bill, Article 13, and its sibling Article 11, touch at some important issues within the online world.
Article 13 aims to re-work classic copyright laws to work in an online world, basically making online regulation of works tighter. This could mean that certain memes, commentary videos, remixes and other works could infringe upon the new laws, and become banned in Europe. Article 11 meanwhile is known as the “link tax”, and under it websites would be made to pay a tax every time they link to another website. For example if Google, Newsnow, or the BBC were to link to our Article 13 page, they’d have to pay for that privilege.
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There are many criticisms of Article 13, and it’s clear it’s based on flawed understandings of the way the internet works. However it’s also providing a necessary service in attempting to get creatives compensated for their work. It hasn’t been enacted yet, although it’s been approved, so 2019 will shed more light on the controversial law.
Poor sales of the latest generation of iPhones, including the iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max, led to billions being wiped off Apple’s value, and the company recommencing production of the last generation of iPhones. Apple has also suddenly become very secretive with their earnings, after an earnings report showed iPads and Macs were doing poorly too.
The end of 2018 has been characterised by a series of high-profile data hacks and breaches, although there have been many others through the year.
In the space of a week Marriott lost data on 500 million customers and Quora on 100 million users, and other companies like Facebook, British Airways and Google have all had huge data issues over the year. In conjunction with Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, the breaches are teaching everyone that data isn’t safe online, no matter how big the company or website you give it to.
It’d be nice to think that these breaches will end in 2019, but realistically we’ll see only an escalation of the problems. After all many breaches from 2018 actually happened before, but we only found out about them now the public is more conscious of the issues. Expect 2019 to feature many more companies coming forward about security breaches.