Every search you make…is being watched

That moment when we all went out and bought smartphones was a game changer for our personal privacy as Tyler Elliott Bettilyon discusses on Medium.

We never imagined at the time how these expensive gadgets would impact on our lives; all we could see that they made our lives easier, but at what cost?

In China, surveillance apparatus is increasingly sophisticated. There is facial recognition technology connected to CCTV cameras and police officers will soon have cameras inside their sunglasses. There may also be drones disguised as birds. Worse still, Chinese citizens are being asked (demanded) to install software in their phones that tracks their downloads and if you’re Chinese and visit a site banned by the government, you lose points from your “social credit score.”

But that’s China, you’re probably thinking. This is a Communist regime that has always controlled how people act and think. It isn’t like that in more democratic countries. Unfortunately the response to that is, “Don’t be so sure.”

Take a look at the surveillance tools the USA has. The NSA’s PRISMprogramme collects masses of data about internet traffic — including yours! That’s why Edward Snowdon blew the whistle on it and revealed how the NSA might be breaking the rules of privacy.

And Europe is no more private. It also has an array of online surveillance tools that it uses in the name of ‘security’. And if you keep sending out the message that we are all in danger, then the citizens of Europe give governments a free pass to collect whatever data they want. They don’t consciously allow it; they passively accept it.

And, online censorship is on the rise as the world becomes more authoritarian. A 2017 report Freedom on the Net details how our freedoms are being curbed year after year. It says: “Nearly half of the 65 countries assessed in Freedom on the Net 2017 experienced declines during the coverage period, while just 13 made gains, most of them minor. Less than one-quarter of users reside in countries where the internet is designated Free, meaning there are no major obstacles to access, onerous restrictions on content, or serious violations of user rights in the form of unchecked surveillance or unjust repercussions for legitimate speech.”

But it isn’t just governments that are watching you; it’s Facebook, Google and the like who are analysing your every move in order to push adverts at you. The Cambridge Analytica scandal showed us how the data they collect can be ‘weaponised’ for political ends.

Perhaps you are very security conscious about your personal data and take all the recommended steps (and more) to protect yourself. But, the web has many vulnerable points you may pass through without your knowledge and that leaves you exposed. These include your friends keeping texts from you, photos of you taken by friends stored on Facebook and Google keeping track of your search history. Yes, you can turn Google tracking off — if you can actually find where to do that. However, ultimately the only way to stay secure is never to send your data via the internet. Or, get yourself a Tor browser. This is a system that attempts to hide source and destination IP addresses by using several proxies. And even then there are still vulnerabilities.

Finally, personal actions to protect our personal data will never be enough: it will require collective action to overcome the Big Brother machinations of the large agencies like the NSA. Bringing the issues to the attention of more internet users is vital to achieve this, then perhaps we can start to solve the problem and pack up our paranoia.

Avoiding the fakes – when you’re looking for an online coach

Having a life or business coach is an invaluable investment in yourself. However, finding one that has the right expertise and who gives you value for money can be a search with challenges, especially if you rely on the online coaching industry.

When you venture on to the web, you’ll find coaches for every aspect of life and it is spectacularly easy to find them. But, as the Romans said,

“Caveat Emptor,” or “let the buyer beware.”

I say this because the Internet has made it very easy for anyone to set them up as some sort of guru, offering wealth and power in five easy steps, if you just pay for their book, course or one-to-one sessions with them. So, how can you tell the wheat from the chaff? Well, there are a few things you can watch out for.

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Exaggerated claims

Policing the Internet is a work in progress and currently it is still easy for those who want to trick you to get on the first page of results. These people know how to SEO their sites to the hilt. My advice is to look out for coaches who make exaggerated claims. Is the offer just too good to be true? Will you really make millions in a matter of months? Look for the coaches that don’t promise the spectacular and unachievable, who don’t use flashy language and who acknowledge you have to put the work in for any real change to happen.

Check their credentials

And I don’t mean their training certificates. If a coach claims they can help you to boost your income to seven figures, make sure you find out if they have been able to do that for themselves. Do your research to make sure the coach has achieved what they claim to be offering. But don’t stop there. Look deeper. Did the coach have a more advantageous starting point than you; in other words, did they work to get where they are, or have they benefited from a fortunate background? If you and the coach have very different starting points, then they possibly are not the one for you.

Watch out for the marketing tricks

Beware of certain sales tactics. For example, there are many who throw in an enormous number of ‘bonuses’, which is an attempt to make you feel more comfortable with the high cost of the course. Also, watch out for those who use special offers within a limited time period that are intended to make you pressure buy. This probably means they know the course isn’t worth the money they are charging. Instead, find one who understands the investment you are making and who can demonstrate that you will be getting value for money.

The free content

Like pressure buying, the offer of free content is another marketing trick. Sometimes the free content is a genuine offer. But, do study what you are offered gratis. Is it just a rehash of some information that is already on the site, for example? The quality of the free content directly relates to the quality of the course you will pay for. Is it going to be worth it?

Finally, you must go with your gut. What inconsistencies can you spot? Do they seem like a balanced person? Are they arrogant or do they brag about themselves? If something feels off, then it probably is. Trust your instincts before you spend your money.

 

 

Mobile Technology Trends of 2017

The development of mobile technology continues to move at speed and this year we have seen some critical new applications, so much so, that I believe 2017 will be seen as the benchmark year for mobile technology, especially in its use by small businesses.

There have been some outstanding apps developed by consumer brands like Subway and Starbucks, and this opens the way for less well-known businesses to do the same. In fact, I read that 50% of small businesses are creating a mobile app this year and that is a great indication of the importance they place on mobile for growing a company.

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Location, location

Another trend that has grown impressively this year is that of location-based apps. These allow a business to offer a service based on the customer’s location and it is not difficult to foresee that the ability to offer real-time services in a specific location will have an impact on a variety of small businesses, and the larger ones.

Augmented reality

Augmented reality apps are another trend that is gaining traction. Some people thought these were just a gimmick, but when you combine the AR technology with a utility app, in other words one that is practical and useful, you have an app that is very engaging. They particularly appeal to the millennial generation and businesses that work on using augmented reality will have better engagement with customers in this group.

Instant apps are a winner

I also see that instant apps are becoming more important, for obvious reasons. There is no need to find the app and download it, install it and all the rest. The apps that run instantly when needed and are the secret of a faster, simpler mobile experience. Google’s new technology is leading this sector.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also making inroads in mobile apps. A number of developers are embedding it in their apps, which is a significant step forward for educational apps. For example, apps that teach children based on how that child learns are emerging. All children have different learning styles and these apps will help them to achieve even better exam results. It can also be applied to consumer shopping with the creation of apps that help you to shop based on what you like, so that the consumer would essentially have a personal shopper on their mobile device.

Remote control

We are also seeing more gadgets and household equipment being linked to the Internet and this requires apps to control them remotely. This is another trend that will boost the growth in mobile technology. And, security is another factor that developers are working on this year, as our mobile devices become increasingly storage devices for money and its equivalent.

It has been predicted that around 268 million mobile apps will be downloaded by the end of 2107 and this translates into $77 billion in business revenue. This sum doesn’t just come from purchasing apps; it is revenue that is also based on increased sales through improved customer engagement and loyalty. This is the secret of growth and why businesses should be adopting mobile technology as soon as possible.

 

 

Future World Governments

Political systems go through change, as history shows us, and as technology and society advances and changes, we are certain to see some alterations in the style of government around the world. There are a few ways that our governments may look dramatically different in the future and some of them are potentially terrifying. Here are five possible scenarios.

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A Noocracy

This is a political system based on the “priority of the human mind.” The concept comes from the Jesuit mystic Teilhard de Chardin, who saw this as a possible evolution of democracy that would create “a flexible and adaptable system comprised of conscious, systematic, and institutionalized elements which will operate in decentralized autonomous subsystems.” The upshot of a system like this is the development of a hive-like civilisation brain that integrates all individual minds, both human and AI, through information networks.

A Cyberocracy

In this system, governments would rule by the effective use of information. This could take two forms: one that supplants bureaucracy and technocracy as we know it, and or one that redefines the relationship between the state and society. It will be driven by decisions based on information, which means a government will seek to obtain as much information as possible about everyone and every entity. It is likely to result in a bureaucratic system run by administrative AIs.

A democratic global government

A global liberal democracy will be one capable of “ending nuclear proliferation, ensuring global security, intervening to end genocide, defending human rights, and putting a stop to human-caused climate change,” says George Dvorsky. We are already on the way to this in terms of culture and economics, but we have yet to reach the political stage. The European Union is an example of this type of government on a small scale.

A Futarchy

This system is the creation of economist George Mason and futurist Robin Hanson. They say that under a futarchy we would “vot on values, but bet on beliefs.” How does that work? Hanson says: “Elected representatives would formally define and manage an after-the-fact numerical measure of national welfare. Market speculators would set prices that estimate national welfare conditional on adopting proposed policies. When the market estimate of welfare conditional on adopting a policy is higher than the estimate conditional on non-adoption, that proposal becomes law.”

Post Apocalypse Hunter-Gatherers

Finally, there is the possibility that we will experience a catastrophic event – natural or man made– that forces us back into a paleolithic political system in which we will return to living in small tribal groups, existing by hunting and gathering for our existence.

Which type of futuristic government would you prefer if you had a choice? I look forward to hearing your views.

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