Shhhhhh Can you keep a secret?

In the technology world and beyond the big story of the moment is government snooping of electronic communications and email in particular.

I have always been of the opinion that emails are the equivalent of picture postcards in the mail, in that they can be easily read by anybody with a mind to do so.

To circumvent this some people and especially businesses encrypt their electronic communications. Whether or not this makes them 100% secure from being read by third parties is of course a matter for debate.

This also points to the fact that the communications have been encrypted because they perhaps contain sensitive information either of a personal or business nature. The sad fact is that it’s human nature that if something is unreadable people will want to break the encryption and read the contents of the message.

In recent years governments seem to want to get this down to a fine art and read what people are sending, as it’s a fair bet that an encrypted email will for example contain something more than birthday greetings to Aunt Maude on her 80th birthday.

Personally I believe that my private communications should be exactly that, Private!!  Or as private as the postcard scenario above will allow. Not because of their contents but simply because generally what I wish to say to other people is purely the business of myself and the person I am communicating with, simple as that.

In a democratic society the people elect the government to basically run the country and keep it’s population safe from harm. I think it’s fair to say that most if not all governments abuse this privilege, and make no mistake it is a privilege.

These days Governments justify actions which are often at best dodgy and underhand and at worst illegal under the current laws by using terrorism and the fight against it as a reason for their actions. Sadly the more they do it successfully then the more they will want to do it again and again, using protection of the population as a reason when the simple truth is it an excuse. There is nothing like a good national panic to hide dodgy activities.

They often get away with this because of simple apathy by most of the population. This apathy is shown by the fact that around 50% or less of those eligible to do so bother to vote at national elections.

Unless they are terminally thick, criminals terrorists or what ever you like to call them are not going to nip into the local supermarket and buy a couple of mobile phones to communicate. There are other means, and I don’t mean email either.

If a national government said that every member of the population had to carry a tracker and report details of when and how they spoke to people there would be open revolt. The sad fact is we already do, it’s called a mobile phone. You only have to walk down any street to see people of all ages using them, and by doing so they are leaving a trail of where they are at any time, who they are communicating with and for how long.

We have phones we can ask questions verbally to and they will give an answer, what people often don’t realise is that these questions are being stored. There is now at time of writing this a phone on the horizon that will constantly listen to what you say and if it detects a question it will answer it. Now that’s scary, if people were told they must carry a device that would listen to every thing they said, there would be riots, but when this phone is available people will buy it because it’s the latest model and has new features on it. We are walking into a 100% surveillance society and the sad fact is that we are buying the equipment ourselves.

Many local supermarkets and shopping centres provide so called free Wi-Fi for customers and visitors, just remember there is as they say no such thing as a free lunch. They don’t do it from the goodness of their hearts, they do it to obtain information so they can make more money out of the customers.

Let’s take supermarkets as an example, when you first connect to their system you enter details such as your loyalty card number, this ties you personally to the phone and of course the location at any specific time. I wonder how many people realise that on most tablets and phones then next time you visit that or any of their other branches you will automatically connect to their Wi-Fi.

They will have more than one access point to cover a store, this will enable them to perhaps see which isles you visit and for how long, tie that up with your purchase record for that visit, because of course you handed your loyalty card over at the till for your points, you know that card whose number you entered to access the free Wi-Fi some months ago. They can see what isles you visited and purchased nothing so perhaps send you offer coupons for stuff in those isles. If the supermarket gave everybody a card to fill out saying what parts of the store you visited and for how long the vast majority would refuse, but give a person Wi-Fi and they will hand the information over without a thought.

Just remember next time you send an email or connect to a “FREE” Wi-Fi point that somebody somewhere is watching.

In most countries freedom is something that has been fought for over the centuries, in this electronic age we seem to be happy to give it away, and the worrying thing is that most people are just not bothered, or don’t realise.

Just remember that you may be giving away information without knowing it and not everybody can be trusted with that information.


ET Phone Home

One electronic device these days seems to affect our lives more than anything else and that’s the mobile phone, or more specifically the smartphone.

Everybody seems to have them.

At the moment my mother is in hospital and this means that each evening Sue and I have the pleasure of two buses each way to go and visit her.

This means that we are subject to the phone users where quite often the phone seems smarter than the user.

Take tonight for instance, on the way back from Peterborough city centre we had a young lad sitting behind us who was constantly on his phone to one person, and judging from his conversation he did not need a call to his girlfriend he needed one to the Samaritans help line. Even I almost felt sorry for him and I don’t normally do sympathy.

Then we had a chap who must have been retiring age whose phone went off just as he sat on the bus, it blared out a pop tune loudly for about 30 seconds until he could find it in his pocket. His subsequent call was louder than his ring tone, and to top it off he had the kind of voice that makes you want to strangle him. You know the type of voice where he says something and laughs at the end of the sentence even though what he said was not remotely funny.

But prize for most irritating of the night goes to a young girl who had a baby in a buggy with her, you could see her on her phone as we approached the bus stop, when the bus came to a halt she slid it between her boobs and then got on the bus. After showing her bus ticket she sorted the buggy out, took the phone from between her boobs, looked at it then wiped the screen on her top, once this was done she just carried on chatting to the person who had been on the other end of the phone all the time. Now the question is did the person hear her heart beat whilst the phone was between her boobs or did the phone go deaf and possibly overheat. We will never know. But please feel free to post your thoughts on what happened to the poor phone.

People like those above make me embarrassed to have an iPhone, much less use it in public. I always feel like sliding down behind the seat if my phone goes off on public transport, so much so that I normally put it on vibrate.

So don’t be shy what annoys or irritates you about phones on public transport or in public places, come on don’t be shy……

Birds are not the only things that fly.

I have been sitting here this morning staring at the computer screen in one of my mediating moods. I am as I have said before not a morning person, I don’t function until after lunch, and some have said I don’t function well even then.

I sat there lost in thought, perhaps I was lost because it was unfamiliar territory, who knows?

Anyway this morning I was thinking about how time flies by and how nobody seems to have time these days during their working day to just stand still and take a breath.

Certainly this year is going quickly, I mean it’s August already, looking back over the past seven months I see how little I have actually achieved, it’s like I have zoomed through the months on autopilot. Either that or I am getting forgetful in my old age, I forgotten which of the two it is.

One of the penalties of working from home is that people knock my door on a regular basis, normally trying to sell me something. One thing that irritates me more than anything is when I get to the door, open it and the person who knocked is already 3 doors down, knocking and spending a couple of seconds at a neighbours door before going onto the next. What the hell are they on? Do they really think that people can answer the door in 3 seconds. At my age as I keep telling myself I am built for comfort not speed. You catch their eye and they look away not wanting to admit that they distirbed me by knocking, it’s rare they come back to speak. The ones that do normally regret it after I have finished saying my piece. Most of them don’t look old enough to be out on their own, certainly not after dark. I have been known to ask them when really irritated if they have escaped from their day centre. I presume from the speed they rush round the cul-de-sac at that they are on commission with a poor basic, what a way to make a living!

Now I am not sure if this time flying by faster lark is down to old age or the fact I have time to sit and think about the subject after doing more important things like contemplating the dust on the monitor. Mind you my mother who is in her mid-eighties bless her is already talking about Christmas and has been doing so since June, this being the case can I assume that this time flying by will get quicker?

The other day I posted a comment on a blog, and the owner reposted it on Facebook saying it was profound. This has puzzled me as generally I don’t do profound, long winded and simple is more my line.
What I posted is this:- It’s amazing what belief can do. It can stop wars, it can start wars. It can divide communities, it can unite communities. It can incite hate, it can conquer hate. It can cloud judgement, it can clear judgement. Tricky stuff this belief.

I don’t know if I find this profound or not, it’s just what came into my head whilst reading the original blog post. As I said I don’t normally do profound, I am not a deep thinker, it’s just not me. I don’t take something and disect it into thousands of little bits to find meaning. To be honest I can’t see the point.

Oh well I think I will go back to my meditating and staring at the monitor, I will only start to worry if I do some mystic chanting in time to the flashing cursor. Oh the strain of the last day of the working week….