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!

Practice Makes Perfect

As the old saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.” This timeless piece of advice is the heart of mastery and success. It is the path of all masters. Even after mastery is reached, practice still retains its importance as it sharpens and maintains the skills of the practitioner. Practice is harder than it sounds. It requires fortitude, consistency and fortitude on the individual’s part. However, I assure you that you will find the pain well worth it many years later. It’s similar to going to the gym. Most of us don’t like going to the gym, but we’ll be glad later that we went. The hardest part of practice is getting yourself to do it. In this article, we will discuss the importance of practice and how you should go about doing it. Before you continue reading, do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter!

The Importance of Practice

#1: Practice Sharpens Your Existing Skills

If there is one thing that your brain is good at, it’s forgetting. The mind, an efficient machine as it is, gradually deletes memories that have been unused for a certain period of time. On the other hand, the brain strengthens retrieval pathways that have been used repeatedly. When retrieval pathways are triggered repeatedly, they become more efficient and stable. These neural pathways can become so efficient that they can be triggered without thought. In other words, these memories become part of your subconscious mind. This is exactly how famous chess masters like Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen are able to execute perfect moves with blinding speed while staying calm. This is the end goal of practice – to develop the ability to execute a series of specified actions perfectly and with minimal effort. This also prevents you from forgetting what you have learned.

#2: Practice Is An Unavoidable Part Of Learning

It is in my humble opinion that not a single human being was and will be able to ride a bike fluently on the very first try. In fact, many of us actually fell down. This is similar to learning other skills. We may not get it on the very first attempt, but with repeated practice we gradually become familiar with the subject matter at hand. We may even be able to spot and learn from our mistakes in the process. Gradually the neural pathways involved are slowly refined and performance increases.

Staying Motivated

Failure is inevitable during the process of practice. There will be times when you feel completely demotivated due to a temporary setback. Here, it is of paramount importance that you push through. There is no other way. When faced with failure, keep going. Of course, if you feel tired, do take a break. Just remember to continue practicing the next day. However, if you feel that the skill you are currently learning is not for you, you have the option to drop it. It’s better to learn something that makes you happy. Below are some tips to keep yourself motivated.

  • Give yourself a break if you feel tired! After all, humans are not machines. Practicing for too long will lead to burnout and fatigue.
  • Practice mindfulness and be aware of your thoughts. When faced with setbacks, try to avoid grumbling or throwing tantrums. Instead, think rationally and find out what went wrong. Then figure out how you can stop making the same mistakes.
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day. Many professionals of different arts and fields had to go through years and years of practice to attain the level of mastery they possess today. You will not see improvement overnight. Instead of focusing on the short term, focus on the big picture. Ask yourself what you want to achieve in the end and draw up a plan to work on it.
  • Stay consistent. Memories will fade if not utilised. Come up with a plan to practice in regular intervals. Always make sure that you make it for each and every practice session, regardless of how you are feeling on that particular day. It may not feel great now, but you will be rewarded handsomely in the future.

Conclusion

While practice is hard, its rewards are plenty and bountiful. I hope that this short article gave you an idea of why you should practice and how you should go about doing so. If you did enjoy this article, do consider giving it a like! Comment your thoughts down below! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more articles.

Here’s Why You Should Visit Japan

Japan, one of Asia’s hottest tourist destinations, is best known for its beauty, food and culture. The Land of The Rising Sun attracts millions of tourists annually, with 2019 being the best year for Japan’s tourism sector. Home to Pokemon, anime and ramen, Japan has much to offer. Those seeking adventure may want to attempt climbing Mount Fuji. Meanwhile, foodies will absolutely look forward to food hunting. In Japan, there’s something for everyone. Even technological geeks and nerds will be amazed at Japan’s cutting-edge technology. In this post, we will discuss the reasons as to why you should visit Japan. Before you continue reading, do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter!

#1: Absolutely Amazing Food

Feeling hungry? Look no further. Japan has a wide range of delicacies and treats, which include Tonkotsu ramen and Sushi. Such dishes are sold at much lower prices in Japan as compared to other countries. It isn’t difficult to find good food either. There are numerous roadside stalls and shops where you can indulge your taste buds. Some of the best places to get street food in Tokyo include Yanaka Ginza Shotengai, Togoshi Ginza Shotengai and Harajuku. For those who are interested in finding the best ramen in Japan, Ichiran and Tsuta Ramen are two of the best ramen restaurants in town.

#2: Breathtaking Scenery

Japan’s beauty is just as magnificent as its food. For those who desire an atmosphere of peace, stillness and serenity, Japan is the answer. There are many ways to admire the gorgeous scenery in Japan. These include trekking up hills and walking through Japan’s numerous nature reserves. During spring, tourists will also be able to savour the picturesque cherry and sakura blossoms. Meanwhile, during winter, tourists and children alike will be able to play in the snow. For those who absolutely love winter and snow, Hokkaido is a great holiday destination. Lastly, let’s not forget about Mount Fuji. The active volcano, which last erupted in 1707, looks especially alluring in winter. Don’t miss it the next time you go to Japan!

#3: Rich Culture

Home to the Samurai, Japan possesses a rich culture. For example, the most prominent of these traditions is the Bushido, a code which Samurai used to follow strictly. This single tradition shaped wars and other highly important events. In essence, it is the very heart of Japan’s history. For those who are interested in Japan’s history, what better place is there other than Japan itself? The best part is that you will be able to enjoy Japan’s beauty and culture at the same time – essentially killing two birds with one stone. This is because many of Japan’s temples and heritage sites are located atop mountains or deep within forests. Isn’t this awesome? It will indeed be a great experience for those who are interested in history and nature.

Conclusion

All in all, Japan is an absolutely fantastic place to visit. Not only does Japan have delicious food (the most important factor for foodies like me), but it also possesses a rich culture and history. Its beauty is also irresistible during winter! Well, that wraps up this short article. If you did enjoy this post, do consider giving it a like! Do also comment you thoughts down below! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for future articles.

100 Followers! Thank you!

First of all, I would like to thank all my readers for their continued support throughout my blogging journey so far. The fact that many of you enjoy my articles gives me an incomparable sense of joy and accomplishment. While I was not confident that my blog would be successful or appreciated from the outset, you have proven me wrong. Throughout this blogging journey, I was able to learn how I could express my ideas with a higher degree of clarity and in such a way that readers will find my articles enjoyable. Moreover, I was able to learn valuable knowledge while conducting research for my articles. Once again, I would like to thank all those who have followed me from the very beginning. Your appreciation and support means the world to me. Thank you! Do follow me if you haven’t done so!

2 Of My Articles Are Ranking On Google!

Perhaps one of the greatest joys of blogging is to see that your article made it to the top of the list. It’s a great feeling and I’m proud to share it with you. Remember when I first started blogging last December? Then, my blog wasn’t anything much and my articles weren’t read by many. Nonetheless, I remained consistent and persistent, and I am proud to say that my hard work is slowly paying off! Today, I would like to share with you 2 of my articles that have successfully made it to the top of the list. Before you continue reading, do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter!

Article 1: Why Exams Are Useless

I wrote this article a while back in December. It details the reasons as to why exams are not useful in promoting learning or the joy of learning, for that matter. So far, the article has been granted the honour of becoming a featured snippet, thus allowing you to find the article quite easily. If, for some reason, you have not checked out this article, you can find it by searching “Why Exams Are Useless” on Google and I believe it should pop up. Alternatively, you can click on this link: https://bestofwrite.com/2020/12/10/why-exams-are-useless/

Article 2: Rich People: Expectations Vs Reality

The ranking of this article is not as impressive as the previous one, but it is worth mentioning as well. This article details the differences between our perceptions of the rich and who they really are. I believe this article will give you a better insight into the lifestyles and mindsets of the rich. You can find this article on Google by simply searching the article’s title, or “rich people expectations”. Likewise, you can also click on this link to access the article: https://bestofwrite.com/2020/12/23/rich-people-expectations-vs-reality/

Conclusion

This article, although short, serves as a quick update to the state of my blog and its articles. What do you think about the articles above? Do comment down below! Thanks for reading and come back some time again!

Keys To Attaining Success

As the famous contemporary author John C. Maxwell states, “The secret to your success is determined by your daily agenda.” Our everyday choices and actions determine whether or not we will attain success in the future. Success is not something that falls from the sky, nor is it something that we can merely purchase with money. Success is a journey and it requires sacrifice – the sacrifice of one’s time, energy and mind to a cause. It requires consistency, motivation and most importantly, hard work. However, many give up in the middle of their journeys to success, citing numerous reasons and excuses such as “I don’t have time!” or “It’s too difficult! I simply lack the talent to succeed.” With this in mind, is it possible for us, mere mortals from different walks of life, to ever obtain success? The answer is a resounding “YES!!” In this article, I will discuss how each and everyone one of us can achieve success, even though it may seem impossible for many of us. Before you continue reading, do follow me and subscribe to my newsletter!

#1: Discover and Follow Your Passion

What is it that brings you the most joy and satisfaction? Solving problems? Playing Chess? Writing? The point is, you must discover this passion and feed it. Of course, life is not as simple as it seems. For many adults and teenagers, with so many responsibilities and little time, chasing this passion may seem a rather daunting task. As a result, they will find their passions waning with time and eventually, these inner flames will die out, never to be found again. Meanwhile, many are not willing to give up their current jobs and careers, which they have taken up solely for the sake of financial sustenance, clinging to the belief that their passions will never be profitable or appreciated. The truth is, if you do not find and pursue your passion, you are doomed to suffer all your life. You will find life meaningless and find yourself bombarded by perpetual boredom, and when you finally realise, in hindsight, that you should have followed your passion from the beginning, it would be too late. So, I implore you, unearth your passion and follow it to the end. Learn to give up the limiting beliefs that plaque your mind day and night. Success and money will come in due time, as long as you dedicate your time and effort consistently. However, do note that this necessitates a degree of sacrifice. To illustrate this, let us study what Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, did to pursue his passion and achieve success. When Bill was a teenager, he found himself to love software and programming. He dreamt of a future where every home would have a computer and wanted to be at the forefront of this revolution. When he was 18 years old, he enrolled in Harvard University. However, he realised that it would only hold him back – he wanted very much to start a company of his own. Consequently, he made the most remarkable and astonishing decision of his life, and that was to drop out of Harvard, which in retrospect, would be the pivotal moment of Bill’s life. Now at this point you might be thinking, “Is Bill crazy or something? Harvard is so hard to get in and he’s just throwing it away like that?” First things first, this isn’t telling you to drop out randomly and spontaneously from university. In Bill’s case, he considered and concluded that his passion had to take precedence and that enrolling at Harvard would only hinder his path to success. What I am trying to say is that, you must be ready to make the bold decision to give up everything you have planned to make way for your inner calling. Do not let external factors and fear dictate what you should or should not do. Remember, the willingness to sacrifice anything and everything for one’s passion is what sets successful people apart. I assure you, only by doing so will you be free and contented.

#2: Work Hard And Be Consistent

Once you have identified and locked on to your passion, you must work on it day and night. There is simply no other way. This part of the journey is the hardest and many give up in the middle of this phase. Here, you might not see big improvements and every practice session may feel mundane. You must be careful not to think that you aren’t getting anywhere. The truth is, you are improving everyday, it’s just that you can’t see it! Let’s say everyday you improve by 1%. 1% might not feel a lot, but after 365 days, you would have improved 365%! Of course, your improvements cannot be calculated and even estimated by such crude numbers and percentages, but you get the idea. Everything will seem slow at first, but after much consistent practice, the law of accelerating returns kick in and you will soon find yourself improving much faster. Let me explain what this “law of accelerating returns” means here. In the early stages of learning a skill, your skill level is, of course, low. Due to a lack of knowledge and familiarity with the field, more time is spent on trying to understand the subject at hand and the durations of your practice sessions are limited. At this point in time, trying to practice for a few hours at a time will only result in you becoming burnt out and more confused. However, with daily practice and learning, your knowledge and skill increases and thus you are able to practice for longer durations and with much more focus. With this increased practice, your skill level and knowledge increases much further, and the quality of your practice sessions increases as well. This in turn gives birth to a never ending, exponential cycle of learning and improvement. Now, the aim of this phase is to reach the point where even hours of practice would seem inadequate and effortless. Reaching this sweet spot will allow your creativity to flow in ways you’ve never seen before and it is at this point that you will find mastery. (If you would like to know why you should never give up easily, check out my article here: https://bestofwrite.com/2021/01/14/never-give-up-easily/)

#3: Replacing Negative Perspectives With Positive Ones

Yes, hard work is important and all, but how do you sustain yourself through this journey? How do you control your emotions? It’s all about your perspective. Ask yourself what failure means to you. Is it the end? Does it mean that you are incapable? The answer to all these questions is a stark NO. Failure just means that you have to work harder. All you have to do is to switch your perspective. Robots and machines do not whine when they experience failure. Failure to them is just a sign that their database is not wide enough and that much more data is needed to increase their success rate. Even machines experience failure on a daily basis, let alone human beings. The only difference is that machines do not attach any emotional significance to failure – they just move on and become better with time. The cycle of learning and failure is the very foundation of learning, even in artificial intelligence. But of course, we are not machines and we are vulnerable to the negative thoughts that come from our very own minds. To overcome this, you have to change your mentality towards the field you are working on. For instance, instead of seeing a Chess match as a battle between two parties, a better way to view it is that Chess is a puzzle battle – the player which solves it the most accurately wins. Failure would not mean that you are better or worse than the other player. It just means that you did not solve the “puzzle” accurately enough! Whether it is you are a Chess player, an athlete, a writer or mathematician, it is essential to learn to work like a machine, celebrate like a human.

Conclusion

Success is no doubt a long journey that requires much sacrifice, hard work and grit. However, it is not impossible to attain. Whenever you experience failure, just be like a clock. Just keep moving.

Meanwhile, are there any other factors of success that I have not mentioned in this article? Do comment your thoughts below!

Further Reading