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The year in tech -- ups and downs

It was a high-flying year in tech, with sky-high valuations and acquisitions, but there's also been plenty of controversy. Here are the biggest stories from the year.

The technology industry has no shortage of sparks -- both bad and good -- in 2014.

Uber hit a valuation of $40 billion, making it one of the most highly valued startups out there. At the same time, it faced a raft of controversies ranging from assaults by its drivers, to the charges it levies, to the way it treats journalists.

Meanwhile, acquisitions picked up at a steady pace. Facebook's 2012 purchase of Instagram photo-sharing service for $1 billion was a shocker around Silicon Valley, but it was nothing compared to the $19 billion the social network agreed to pay for the WhatsApp messaging program.

It was also a year where cybersecurity became a central issue, following the revelations from Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor who leaked classified documents about all manner of government surveillance programs.

Finally, 2014 didn't answer the perennial question that's hung over the smartphone industry for the whole year: Who will be its third-banana? Apple and Samsung are clearly in the top spots, both in unit sales and profits. But HTC, LG, Motorola and Lenovo are still duking it out for the third place on the podium. There's also a new competitor, Xiaomi, whose own phones have gained traction, particularly among Chinese consumers.

Here are the highlights from the year.