ZDNetGovWeek: All I want for Xmas is a week with no government screw-ups

Is that too much to ask? One frickin' week of no disasters. I'm not asking for competence, just a quiet week of no mistakes. Yeah, like that's going to happen. Ah, well. Feast your eyes below on the spectrum of news and idiocy that is government in action.

ZDNet's worldwide team provides global 24/7 technology news and analysis. In addition to my own coverage analysis here in the ZDNet Government column and on ZDNet's DIY-IT, every week I'll bring you a selection of the best government-related articles posted by our intrepid reporters and analysts. Here are some of the most interesting from the last week.

Top stories this week

Forget the NSA: Orwell's 1984 is alive and well in private industry
State-sponsored surveillance and repression should not be your concern. Social networks, providers and employers you trust to safeguard your data and livelihood is what worries me most.

2013: The year trust died
As we move forward into a new year, fully aware of all the data gathering, surveillance, and big data out there, I have only one simple piece of advice: Watch where you step.

Twelve Days of Congress: gifts for the government that has everything (2013 Gift Guide)
How much do you love your country? Enough to shop until you drop, choosing just the right gifts? If you're stumped on exactly what to give your favorite nation, we have the answers. Come on in!

Google: Gov't removal requests rise sharply, especially in Turkey, Russia
A Google legal director pointed to a more "worrying trend," which she specified was the number of removal requests related to political content.

UN votes to protect privacy in digital age
The General Assembly of the United Nations has unanimously passed a resolution that affirms the same rights in the online and offline realms.

Judge: NSA phone metadata surveillance likely unconstitutional
But U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon's preliminary injunction does not require the NSA to stop its data collection.

Healthcare.gov back-end errors still severe
Reports from multiple sources indicate that a large number of people who believe they have enrolled in a health care plan through the Federal or state exchanges have not, in fact, enrolled.

Other government coverage around ZDNet

AT&T backtracks on transparency report plan; will start publishing in 2014
Transparency is already one of the biggest buzzwords of 2014.

New Australian government sits on website censorship inquiry
The new Australian government has had a draft discussion paper prepared on the controversial Section 313 powers granted to government agencies to force ISPs to block websites, but it has not acted on it since the election.

German government 'should sell Deutsche Telekom stake', watchdog says
Net neutrality regulations also "not recommended" by Monopolies Commission report.

Instrumenting the smart city, one parking space at a time
Adding sensors to a city can make living there easier, as Xerox and Los Angeles found when they developed a dynamic pricing tool for on-street parking.

NSW sells Centre for Advanced Computing and Communication
Klikon Solutions claims 100 percent ownership and will honour existing contracts.

Philippine IT office has high hopes for e-payment system
The IT Office of the Department of Science and Technology has unveilled updates on some of its projects, including the much-awaited online payment system called 'PhPay'.

NSA leaks mean Germans no longer trust their own government's online services
In wake of the Snowden leaks, concerns about data security and privacy have risen sharply.

India to launch 'Netra' for online surveillance of keywords
In another measure against possible terrorist attacks, the Indian government is launching an Internet spy system capable of detecting words in a matter of seconds across social media and online messages.

CenITex transformation continues with new members on board
Coming from a history of nepotism and overpaid contractors, three IT industry experts have been appointed to Victoria's IT services provider to turn things around.

EC invests €6bn in future tech with Horizon 2020 partnerships
Under Horizon 2020, the EC is investing $8.5 billion in long-term research and development in eight technology areas where Europe wants to be able to compete in global markets. These include 5G networking, photonics, and robotics.

Italy's €1bn 'Google tax' gets closer – but will it fly?
A budget amendment could force any online firm operating in Italy to set up a taxable entity in the country, but opinion is divided on whether it will fill the country's coffers – or even pass EU scrutiny.

Snowden offers help to Brazil in exchange for asylum
The whistleblower asks Brazilian government asylum for the second time

Italy's site-blocking law comes into effect: A threat to Pirate Bay or a curse on online freedom?
A new package of regulation has been passed in Italy, cutting the costs and time needed to get sites blocked or copyright infringing work removed from the internet. But is the law as well thought out as it should be?

Edward Snowden's asylum-seeking letter to Brazil - in full
Read the letter from the NSA whistleblower to the Brazilian people

Coalition redirects research funding, scraps NBN initiatives
In a bid to 'repair the Budget', the federal government has redirected funding from research projects in what it calls 'good news for Australia'.

FCC and carriers agree to make it easier to unlock phones
Not everyone is ready to open the champagne yet as we wait to see if these new policies will become new practices. If all goes well, users will eventually find it easier to unlock their phones.

NSA using Google cookies, app location data to track targets
A newly-released NSA document leaked by Edward Snowden shows that the agency is using advertising cookie and location data to track individuals already under suspicion.

TPP talks pushed to 2014 as Singapore negotiations fail
Hopes of reaching a conclusion on the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Singapore have been dashed as negotiators push to hold more meetings next month.

Many state health care exchanges vulnerable to login theft
Research by a forensics firm shows that Wifi users of many state health care exchanges could have their usernames and passwords unknowingly sniffed.

Top 5 government IT disasters besides Healthcare.gov
The government program generally known as Obamacare is the poster child for poor government IT work. There have been others though.

Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook call for NSA muzzle
The Reform Government Surveillance group, an alliance between eight major technology firms, aims to persuade the U.S. government to stop undermining the privacy rights of the general public.