Spies, Privacy and Social Media

The internet and social media are twin inventions that have and will continue to shape human history. Almost every human has in one way or another utilised them to communicate, educate themselves or accelerate daily tasks. They have become so crucial that we would be in agony to live without them. We use them so much that we no longer question their safety and transparency. Many of us may never realise that our secrets and personal information may be being stored and accessed against our will. In this digital age, we have become so accustomed to entrusting third parties with our sensitive information, believing that they will live up to their promise of consumer privacy. However, it’s not all the time that these companies or third parties will respect our privacy. For example, in 2013, Edward Snowden revealed the existence of numerous surveillance programs headed by different intelligence agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency. Leaked reports and documents indicate that these surveillance programs, such as the Five Eyes network and PRISM, have been collecting consumer and personal data on a global scale for years. So, exactly how much freedom and privacy do we possess? How safe is our data?

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Social Media: A Data Collecting Net?

Twitter, Instagram and YouTube are just some social media platforms which may already be collecting your data.

As the internet advanced and mobile technology became widespread, the use of social media began to rise. Social media platforms such as Facebook, which was founded in 2004, offered us a space to share our lifestyles freely with others around the world. On such platforms, users can share and upload pictures, videos and recordings which are available to be viewed by everyone or a selected group of individuals, depending on the user’s privacy preferences. While people perceive social media to be a safe space to express their thoughts and feelings, many governments and their respective security services view the above services as a way to better monitor their citizens and thus enforce national security. The sudden influx of free-flowing data on such platforms offers governments an unprecedented view into the lives of their citizens, and those in other parts of the world. This has led to the creation of mass surveillance programs that record and analyse consumer data, often without the awareness of the consumer. While there are laws designed to protect personal information and privacy, the act of mass surveillance raises several pressing concerns. These include the reliability of such laws and in the event of absolute necessity, such as in the investigation of crimes, the extent to which relevant authorities may access consumer information. These concerns have only continued to worsen as technology and society advanced steadily. Most recently, an operation named “Trojan Shield” led by several federal enforcement agencies of the United States and its counterparts in many other countries, most prominently the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), has sparked controversy regarding consumer privacy. The operation, launched in 2018, was simple yet ingenious. As its name suggests, it entailed launching an app that offered its users an encrypted and secure messaging experience which in reality was a tool to identify and monitor criminals in real-time. Launched under the enigmatic name “ANOM”, the ersatz messaging app gave investigative authorities access to criminal communications and allowed them to learn more about existing criminal networks, which may have previously remained undetected. The operation ran for up to 3 years and concluded with more than 800 arrests, the seizure of 40 tons of drugs, 250 guns, 55 luxury cars and more than US$ 148 million in currencies and cryptocurrencies. Overall, the operation was considered a major success. But at what cost? ANOM’s users were not restricted to criminals alone. They were also used by normal citizens who became unknowingly implicated in the ongoing investigation, as their data was laid bare for authorities to see as well. This operation shows that there is a possibility that similar, supposedly secure messaging apps may already be in use for the mass surveillance of civilians.

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Edward Snowden: Intelligence, Secrets and Spies

Edward Snowden, a former CIA contractor, leaked numerous documents revealing the existence of mass surveillance programs.

In 2014, Edward Snowden, a former CIA contractor, leaked several documents which revealed the existence of numerous, previously unheard surveillance programs. These programs, controlled by several nations, most prominently members of the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance, ranged in capability from the tapping of fibre-optics to the interception of electronic communication. It is also notable that many of these programs have been undetected for years (PRISM launched in 2007 and remained hidden until 2013) and involved many telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon. For his actions, Edward Snowden was charged with violating the 1917 Espionage Act and theft of government property on 21 June 2013. Two days later, he made his way to Moscow to seek asylum, which was granted to him one month later. When questioned about his motives regarding the leak, Snowden expressed that he slowly became disillusioned with the programs he was involved in and was troubled by their ethical implications. He is currently living in Russia with his spouse Lindsay Mills and his son.


In this 21st Century, who should we entrust our information with? How much of our data is truly private? While we still lack clear answers to these questions, it is important to understand the importance of prudence when utilising the internet. Although the internet is a tool that we use almost daily, it is also littered with dangers. Yes, we can “delete” our social media posts, we can “remove” our comments, but how can we be certain that this information will truly be deleted on the other end? In other words, there is simply no substitute for being careful. Anything you post online can be dug up and used against you. This includes your search history too. 

So, will the world become the world as predicted by George Orwell in his best-selling novel 1984? One can only wonder how the future will be like.

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5 Random Jokes

Life can be tough and boring. That’s what jokes are for!

#1: The Spy

Why did the spy cross the road? That’s because he was never on your side.

#2: The Cell

What can die but cannot live? A battery.

#3: The Dark Joke

Why can’t Americans play chess? That’s because they lost both their towers…

#4: The Paralympian

What do you call a Chinese Paralympian? Lim Ping.

#5: The Physicist

What do physicists say when they don’t know something? Infinite density.

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6-Word Story Attempt 3

Take courage, fortune favours the brave!

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6-Word Story/Sentence Attempt Two

I can’t live, I can’t die

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The Simplest Six Word Story You’ll Ever Hear

After birth, he lived and died.

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Some Updates:

In case you missed me, I am doing well and I hope you are too! As stated earlier, I will officially continue blogging in mid-October. I thought that posting a six-word story would be a fun thing to do, so here you go. Well, it was in my opinion brutally simple and straightforward, but it was worth a shot. What do you think about it? Post your comments down below. If you enjoyed this post, do consider giving it a like! Follow me for more articles and stay tuned for more!

Solving Boredom

Ironically, let’s start off with the boring meaning of “bored”. According to Google, it is “feeling weary and impatient because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity.” There you have it. Boredom comes from a lack of interest or enjoyment. It certainly feels dreadful when we’re doing something we don’t like or when we have nothing fun to do. Sometimes, boredom can even give birth to a form of laziness. By far, boredom is the worst enemy of productivity. So how do we address this void? In this article, we will discuss how we can solve boredom and bring purpose to whatever we do. Before you continue reading, do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter!

#1: Take A Break

Most often, we find ourselves focused on something for long periods of time because we tell ourselves we must complete a certain objective as soon as possible. The problem is that the mind will get bored of something pretty quickly when it is not given a break. When you were a kid, did you find yourself munching on chocolates only to find yourself absolutely tired of it after a couple of chocolate bars? It’s the same logic. The brain craves variety and excitement. For that reason, it is extremely beneficial to take breaks from time to time. If you have already read for an hour, reward yourself with a television show. Yes, you could read on for hours to come, but doing so would be counterproductive as your mind would get tired and gradually lose interest in the subject matter at hand. However, if breaks are not an option, you can also choose to alternate between tasks. For example, you may want to read for 1 hour, then do household chores for 30 minutes, before going back to reading again.

#2: Find Something You Enjoy

This step requires some reflection on your part. There is no definitive answer to this. Say, perhaps you like jogging in the park. You could choose to go jogging whenever you feel bored. The key is to find something that would lighten your heart and mind and allow you to relax. Just remember not to go overboard with this. Often, many spend too much time “relaxing” and less time on necessary tasks. For this reason, I recommend that you create a timetable to organise your day to day schedules. However, it is even better if you can integrate it with your work. In other words, this means that you can do that thing you enjoy at the same time as you work. For instance, you could listen to music while you complete your homework or sip some coffee while cleaning up your email.

#3: Make Boring Stuff Fun!

Sometimes, all it takes is some little tweaks to the way we do or view something. To make something more interesting and engaging, you could either choose to “gamify” the activity or make it visually appealing. These are just some suggestions – there are no rules to dictate how you should go about doing this! Since the brain gets bored of something relatively quickly, you can change the way in which something is presented every session. For instance, you could create mind-maps for your school notes today and utilise flashcards tomorrow! This mix and match creates something new for your mind every session, thus removing the element of predictability and monotony. Likewise, if you find running boring, you can motivate yourself by buying a smart watch (don’t splurge on this) which tracks your calorie burn count and distance travelled. In fact, some apps award you points for running a certain distance or burning a certain amount of calories. Meanwhile, if you would like to know how you can create habits effectively, check out my article here: https://bestofwrite.com/2020/11/30/how-to-build-a-habit-effectively/

Conclusion

Boredom is something that we experience quite regularly, and I hope that this article will be useful in your quest to eradicate it. If you have not followed me yet, do consider doing so now and subscribe to my newsletter too! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more articles!

Further Reading

Do You Practice An Attitude of Gratitude?

Having an attitude of gratitude sounds easier than it really is. Being thankful requires you to place your grudges, resentments and biases aside. Often, we become blinded by the so-called “negatives” of the people around us and our environment, and thus fail to notice all the goodness within them. Indeed, gratitude requires a change in perspective. Focusing solely on the negative events of your life will only bring you constant unhappiness. On the other hand, being grateful, even when the current situation may look bleak, can bring us an unparalleled feeling of contentment and joy. So, do you practice an attitude of gratitude? If so, why? Leave your comments down below! In this article, we will discuss why you should cultivate an attitude of gratitude and how you should go about doing so. Before you continue reading, do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter!

#1: Gratitude Grants Peace

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A glass is filled with water to half its maximum capacity. Is it half empty or half full? Different individuals would describe this differently, and their answers are but a reflection of their inner selves. Of course, there is nothing wrong with each answer. However, they do reveal much about our perspectives of the world – to focus on what is missing, or what is present? Gratitude calls us to focus on what is already in our grasp, and to cherish it. Exercising this gratitude helps us to count our blessings, and be thankful for all the good that we have had in our lives, be it our loved ones, our possessions or skills. On the other hand, if we focus strictly on what we are lacking in, we will never be fulfilled. Traces of this pessimistic attitude can be found in many forms of human behaviour and emotion, such as jealousy and feelings of low-self esteem. In other words, the human mind is most likely to lose itself in the void, thus giving birth to endless cycles of greed and desire.

#2: Gratitude Improves Relationships

Photo by Joey Kyber on Pexels.com

No relationship is one-sided. Each party involved has to appreciate the other, and vice versa. But how many of us do bother to reciprocate the love that the other party gives? Do we take it for granted? If you find yourself in this category, it’s time for you to show a little gratitude! Gratitude can be expressed in simple ways – it doesn’t require a full-scale party. It could be as simple as “I’m thankful for your company all these years”. While these may look insignificant, they help to season the relationship and keep the bond strong. However, there are many who do not understand this and inadvertently end up destroying their relationships, as a lack of gratitude results in the other party feeling disposable, expendable and unappreciated.

#3: Gratitude Helps You Stay Afloat In Life’s Challenges

Photo by Kellie Churchman on Pexels.com

How often in life have we felt crushed by failure, not because of the failure itself but because we could have done better? Again, we are focusing on what we lack, and not what we have at the moment. Instead of focusing on the failure, it helps to be grateful of the fact that you have tried and done your best. Likewise, we should also be thankful for the opportunity to fail. “Say what now?” Yes, you read that right. Failure is a chance to learn and to improve. It’s these lessons that make us who we are and who we will be in the future. View it as a curse, and you’ll never learn. View it as a blessing in disguise and you will be handsomely rewarded. It is the wise who, even in humiliating moments of defeat, are thankful that they have a chance to try again and do better. This essential lesson is especially important in the path to mastery, where mistakes are inevitable. Learn more about how you can attain success for yourself here: https://bestofwrite.com/2021/04/25/keys-to-attaining-success/

Conclusion

It has been a long time since I have posted. (At least it feels that way for me) I hope that you did enjoy this post. Thanks for reading! Do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter if you haven’t done so!

Here’s Why Smoking Is Bad For You

Smoking has become one of the most dangerous habits in the world. In fact, tobacco use has been shown to kill more than 5.4 million people a year! What’s even more shocking is that approximately 1 billion people in the world are smokers! But what can account for this ridiculously high fatality rate? In this post, we shall discuss the negative health effects of smoking. Before you continue reading, do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter!

#1: It’s Addictive

Source: https://www.additudemag.com/addictive-behaviors-adhd/

One of the top reasons as to why many people are addicted to smoking is the prospect of stress release. Nicotine, which is one of the many components of a cigarette, is an addictive stimulant drug that causes adrenaline release. Thus, a smoker may experience a sudden release of stress and may feel temporarily relaxed. This keeps them coming back for more and many smokers may begin to experience uncontrollable urges to relapse. If left unchecked for a prolonged period of time, this bad habit gradually becomes an addiction, as your mind comes to rely heavily on the stress-releasing effects of cigarettes for pleasure. At this point, kicking the habit becomes insanely difficult and therapy is advised.

#2: It Destroys Your Health

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

Many smokers and members of the population are unaware of the toxic ingredients that make up a cigarette. Let’s do a quick check. Do you know that tar is present in the cigarette? Well, if you don’t know, you’d better continue reading. Tar is basically carcinogenic. In other words, it increases the risk of lung cancer. Furthermore, it paralyses cilia (the hair like structures on the surface of ciliated cells) lining air passages, thereby increasing risks of chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Likewise, smoking causes you to take in unhealthy amounts of carbon monoxide, which combines permanently with haemoglobin to form carboxyhemoglobin. This means the ability of your blood to carry oxygen is reduced. Well, you get the picture here. Smoking is extremely bad for your health and if you don’t quit, death is at your doorstep, for real.

#3: It’s A Waste of Money

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Think about it. Isn’t spending money on useless and meaningless things which serve no purpose just a waste of money? Well this applies to smoking as well. What’s even worse that you are driving yourself closer to death with every new cigarette box you buy. Its health effects notwithstanding, smoking is a habit which will wash your money down the drain. Think about how much money you would have saved if you were to stop buying cigarettes for a year. According to the National Cancer Institute, the average cost of a pack of smokes is $6.28. Now let us do some simple calculations. Buying a pack of smokes a day would cost you $188 per month. This would in turn cost you $2,292 a year! Likewise, a ten year smoking habit will cost you $22,920! Well, this is assuming that you only buy 1 cigarette box a day, which is highly unlikely as your mind becomes more and more addicted to and reliant on smoking. Think about what you could do with all that money. Think about how you could use it to provide a better life for your family. Think about how many skills and knowledge you could have learnt using all that money.

Conclusion

I hope that you did enjoy this post, and if you did, do consider giving it a like! Follow me and subscribe to my newsletter if you haven’t done so. Stay tuned for my next articles!

Life Principles I Live By

Your beliefs, principles and faith determines how you live. These vary from person to person, depending on one’s background, life experiences and of course, upbringing. What you think, how you think, how you speak, all reflect your inner self. All these determines where you’ll go and how far you’ll go in this world. Today, I will share about the life principles I live by and why I do so. Before you continue reading, do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter. Without further ado, let’s begin.

#1: Treat Others The Way You Want To Be Treated

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

I think this life principle constantly eludes us, especially in the present world. All men desire happiness, love and care. However, do we consider the feelings and needs of others? Often we become selfish individuals, as we seek the ideals of the world. We start to think that the world only revolves around us. This way of thinking is prevalent in many people today, especially with social media everywhere and the inception of the internet. The reason as to why I think that we should all treat others the way we want to be treated is that no man is an island. The world does not revolve solely around us. All of us are part of the same race and have the same needs. Only if we work together, respect each other and care for each other can we achieve and move forward as one humanity. Don’t be afraid to give a hand to those who are in need and lift others up with you.

#2: Do What You Love And You Will Succeed

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In the past, many thought that success can be obtained through sheer hard work and willpower. Well, at least that was the thinking of the 20st century, especially for many Asians. The idea was that if you achieved more, you would be able to live a happier and luxurious life. While it is true that you might be more likely to succeed if you had more qualifications and achievements (again to some extent), you will not feel happy at all. Later, you will start to question the meaning of your success and you will start to detest every single day at work. Without a purpose or passion, success is meaningless and impossible to attain. What I believe is that as long as you do what you love and work towards it every single day, you will gain true success. Not only will you be granted great happiness, but you will also naturally be more determined and persistent. Look at Jeff Bozos and Bill Gates. Both of them have built a net worth of many billions of dollars and they could choose to retire any time. After all, the money which they possess is enough for them to live luxuriously till the end of their lives! However, both of them still choose to work everyday, because to them, their work is play. To them, they aren’t working at all, but doing what they love. I rest my case. Only when you follow your passion can you be happy and successful.

#3: Care For Others, Especially The Poor

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This builds upon principle #1. As humans, we have to be able to care for other members of our race. We should spread love and hope around the planet, and be united. As stated earlier above, we are not alone. We are not islands. We are all interconnected in many ways, even if we don’t perceive it. Yes, caring for others can be difficult and many of us may not have the courage to do so. However, all of us can play a part in helping each other. Some simple acts of love we can do is to donate to the poor, support your neighbours and build friendships. Many, including the poor, suffer not because of their circumstances or what they have went through. Instead, it is because of the indifference of others towards them. In other words, silence in the face of poverty, evil and suffering is the greatest evil among all evils. This is why I believe learning to care for others and the unfortunate is what defines us as humans and as a species. A single act of love is all it takes.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading! I thought that it would be nice to share some of my most cherished life principles with all of you. I hope that you did enjoy this article and learnt something from it. Stay tuned for my article!