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At a time when the concern over personal data is at odds with the urge to share our lives via social media, Dictionary.com announced its selection for the Word of the Year: Privacy.

With the rapid rise of Facebook and Twitter, where users routinely and instantly share intimate particulars or upload personal photographs, “privacy” became much less private. But a series of recent events that have led to a shift in social behavior have prompted a deeper look at the meaning of the word.

Consider:

  • In January 2013, vigorous complaints from airline passengers and privacy advocates led to the TSA scrapping airport body scanners that produce near-naked images of travelers.
  • In April, Google Glass, which generated criticism that the technology was invasive and could potentially infringe on people’s privacy, was made available through a public lottery.
  • In June, Edward Snowden revealed the widespread global spying program, PRISM, run by the National Security Agency.
  • In September, after the lobbying of such actresses as Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner, California lawmakers passed legislation protecting the privacy of the children of celebrities.
  • In October, Google announced new privacy policy plans that allow the company to incorporate user data into advertisements.
  • In December, AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo! united to demand reform of surveillance laws in a petition to the federal government.

Privacy is defined as “the state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one’s private life and affairs.” The distinction between private and public goes back to ancient Rome when privatus and publicus were juxtaposed terms that distinguished what belonged to the state (publicus) from what belonged to the individual (privatus).

“The meaning of privacy is evolving, and just about any discussion of the subject is bound to elicit strong opinions,” said Michele Turner, CEO of Dictionary.com. “As everything from smart phones, wearables, and even smart refrigerators monitor our activities, the distinction between what’s private and what’s public has changed more than ever. Perhaps the current definition may need to be revised to address our freedom from intrusion by anyone, from governments to corporations to individuals. As we’ve considered how to update the definition of privacy, it became clear that it stands as the single word that had the biggest impact in 2013.”

The word “privacy” beat out such timely terms as “sequester,” “shutdown,” and “share,” as well as neologisms such as “cronut,” “Obamacare,” and “3D printing,” to become the Word of the Year.

About Dictionary.com

Dictionary.com, LLC, the world’s leading digital dictionary, helps people get smarter anytime, anywhere. Dictionary.com, an IAC (NASDAQ; IACI) company, offers its 65 million monthly users reliable access to millions of definitions, synonyms, spelling, audio pronunciations, example sentences, and translations from its properties at Dictionary.com, Thesaurus.com, and Reference.com, as well as through its suite of more than 24 apps across every major platform. For more information, please visit www.dictionary.com.

Sample Coverage:

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TIME Magazine

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PARADE Magazine

‘Privacy’ is Dictionary.com’s word of the year
The Verge

‘Privacy’ named Dictionary.com’s 2013 word of the year
Yahoo! News

Dictionary.com dubs ‘privacy’ their word of the year. 
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Dictionary.com Chooses ‘Privacy’ as the 2013 Word of the Year
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