Should Privacy Be a Right?

A bit of a departure for me, but something that is very close to my heart, Privacy I don’t mean people not knowing what I look like on here or the fact that I choose to put pictures and my opinions on the internet for all to see, I mean the data that I do not choose to share, the buried tracking cookies, the carefully worded “terms and conditions” that essentially boil down to you agreeing to being tracked and profiled in order to use a service, and when that service is Google or Facebook, it is difficult to make the decision to not agree and to walk away from the service because they have become so ingrained in our society, life can genuinely be difficult without them.

I want to deal immediately with the first argument that people come up with when faced with this point “if you have nothing to hide what is the problem?” the problem is that I do not want to share ever aspect of my life and if you think about it I bet neither do you, secondly I want to choose what I allow people to know about me and my family, and third I want to know what information is being gathered about me and how much care the organisations that have that data are taking over it.

I work in network security and as such have always been one of the “tin foil hat brigade” because when you understand the nature of a thing you see just how powerful it actually is, that said the event that triggered my latest rant had me baffled as to the mechanism in the background that allowed the transfer of data, and it concerns the setting up of an account with the same avatar that I have on here, I like a lot of people run Plex media server at home, it is run on a local server not in the cloud and has three accounts on it, I will not name the site that this happened on and have only named Plex as it is important to understand that this was a local server, I created an account on the other site and added the avatar, the next time I went to log into Plex it had updated my profile picture (previously blank) to the new avatar, there is no discernible connection between the two and to this day the way it pulled that information is a mystery.

The Giants of the tech world log and track our lives By Default removing our ability to be in control of our own information, they use this information to shape the world we see and as we become more and more dependant on social media and devices to run our everyday lives algorithms are working in the background make sure we never see something that doesn’t interest us, but think about that for a minute, if we never see anything that they think would not interest us and the knowledge they have is only built from things that we have searched for or looked at previously then where is the diversity? where is the random nature that makes humans so interesting, all our visual cues while online will be similar and our browsing experience will be shaped to appeal to what the system thinks we want.

Computers like uniformity, they thrive in a binary predictable environment where an action equals a programmatic and logical response, and of course it is a marketers dream, consistent advertisements, news stories suggested feeds and search results that all point to a single direction will ultimately push an individual into a course of action even if the only reason is frustration at the seeming lack of options.

The boom in devices for children that require an account to tailor the results and media to the younger audience simply means that this cataloguing of the human race begins earlier, and our children provide information without a care in the world, a slightly more sinister way of looking at is with the ability to shape the content that they consume it is not a major stretch before you arrive at the ability to condition and influence an individual or in the case of YouTube and Facebook, a generation effectively allowing tech companies to provide the generation of the future, and the Best case scenario for this is that they shape consumerism, the worst case doesn’t even bear thinking about.

So the question really isn’t about privacy being a right, or about the ISP knowing what websites we are going to, it is far deeper and more fundamental than that, it is about the right to live your life as you see fit, to have the ability and the information at your hands that makes you equal to your fellow man both in freedom and opportunity, it is allowing your children to grow and choose their paths through their own experience and curiosity not through a pre-programmed journey based upon an unseen authorities view on what they should become.

I guess that for the most part this post is really “my two cents” but I urge anybody that has even a passing thought that I may have a point, to just look at the videos and content that is popular among your children, or take more notice at the lack of deviation in advertising on social media that you see as well as the difficulty in trying to search for a topic outside of your normal interest on Google, look past the inconvenience and think about the long term consequence.

Children and iPad’s when is it enough?

The world is changing and as always Children are just changing along with it, without question and without a hitch so it would seem, if anything I feel jealous sometimes that my kids adapt to new technology and within a very short period of time are using the new gadget or application with the ease of a seasoned pro, they can do this because they do not resist change, life for them has been constant fast paced change and they are comfortable with it, no sooner can they walk and talk as they are then put into pre-schools, people come people go and they are constantly introduced to new experiences and toys to assist their learning, by definition parents on the other hand tend to be at least a generation away and have, if nothing else gotten used to a slower pace of life, we have settled into jobs / careers found somewhere to live and our interests and hobbies are all pretty much fixed by the time we consider having children, actually it is often this particular milestone that triggers the conversations about having kids.

So we start to resist changes, we look with suspicion at gadgets and apps as they appear on the market, and with confusion at the latest craze to sweep over our children from YouTube or TikTok or whatever the current craze is, but these differences just flow into and out of their lives with ease.

Children will literally spend hours staring at a screen.

They do not have the normal indicators that they have spent time on the devices though, their schedules are still dictated by us the parent, and I would be lying if I said that I haven’t found it easier to get things done when the girls are sat happily wandering down a YouTube spiral or making videos and editing them to share with friends.

But of course that is flawed because it is easy for us to lose track of time and before you know it hours have gone by and all you have seen of them is the back of the iPad or phone, the reaction is usually to tell them to stop playing with the devices and go out and play, or at the very least do something different, today I did this very thing and was horrified when they both stood outside in the garden looking a little lost, my youngest daughter wanted to play a game with her sister but she was sulking a little brought on (I suspect by the manor in which she was asked to put the iPad down and go out and play) so my youngest became very frustrated and chaos began to ensue, the problem was that they had no real alternative easily at hand, the virtual worlds that our children disappear into are so vast and colourful offering the ability to manipulate their surroundings at will and offer instant gratification that they are honestly a hard act to follow, but instead of getting just as stressed as they were I bundled them in the car and drove to a local bargain store and let them choose a selection of toys to play with back at home, I was surprised at how engaged they were, they picked and we headed home with inflatable limbo, a cricket set and some devices that you swing round your ankle and attempt to skip over with the other foot, as well as hula hoops.

A far cry from the 4k HD screens they had been so upset to leave these things grabbed their imaginations the way they always would have done before iPads came along, they were bright, fun, and cheap there was no requirement to be careful with them they were their to have fun and possibly more importantly they worked better if you had somebody there to play with.

The afternoon went amazingly they played and apart from one relapse where my youngest had a minute on the iPad before putting it down to see what her sister was doing (she ultimately found a lot more fun in knocking over the Limbo pole as her sister was going under it) there was very few tears and they went to bed tired and happy.

We cannot remove these devices from our children completely, I know there are several schools of thought on the subject but it seems impossible to me and as far as I am concerned it would be damaging, information is imparted through these devices, our children are educated and inspired through them, and they will only play a bigger and bigger role in their futures, to deny them this would be to isolate them from their peer groups at best and at worst completely cut them off from career paths / life skills that they will need in the very near future, an indicator of just how fast we have moved from when I was a child, I can remember a VCR with a remote control on a wire being amazing, the ultimate in luxury, in contrast when my youngest daughter was three she became very frustrated that the TV screen didn’t react to her pressing it, as she just expected to be able to navigate the menus by touch, I still have issues picking up the phone in case a get an automated answering service at the other end, whereas they will happily have entire conversations with Siri.

My point is that we should not be scared of the focus and fascination that they exhibit with these devices, and nor should we take it personally when we try and speak to them and get a mere grunt of recognition, children will do fun things 100 percent and if we observe it we get the same response when they are engaged in physical games or playing with friends absent of any devices.

There is a balance inherent in life with all things and this is just another example of finding that balance, but while everybody at the minute seems to be vilifying tablets and phones in the hands of children we tend to forget that it is us that has put these devices in their hands and we need to remember that we need to moderate their use, as well as be responsible for securing these devices, and a good engaging alternative will smooth the way.

Children, our pupils and teachers.

Children can and do ask the strangest questions and their world can fall apart at the slightest drop of a hat, and we as adults, all caught up with trying to run a home a life and look out for the best interests of our children and significant others sometimes find these episodes a little testing, and that is without trying to fit in the reading of another blog!

Life does demand our full attention there is no getting away from that, but life is not just what we do for a living, what we want to do for a living or what is fed to us through tiny handheld 4k super hd screens, it is the mere act of living and breathing and what ever else we happen to be facing at the time.

So this explains why our children often overreact to situations or need our support for seemingly inconsequential things, they do not worry about work, the car or house payments and they certainly do not worry about their progress becoming rich or a Superhuman! so to them when a fly comes to close to their ice cream they are devastated, when they are being asked to eat something that they don’t like it is a life or death struggle (even if we know it is soo much better for them than their choice of Chicken Nuggets and Chips) but we still sit and shake our heads and in some cases (I know I have) actually ask them why it is so hard to eat a yogurt?

This actually presents us with a huge and rare opportunity to be problem solvers, to be a God, if only for the 2 minutes it takes them to forget what they were upset about, and to further cement the relationship between you and the most important people in your life, because you can swat the fly or chase it away, and to your child you have become a hero, you may as well have swooped down on a great green dragon and slain the beast where it stood, and imagine if you went in to work and your boss pulled you to one side and said “the company is going under we will all be out of work and have our houses repossessed unless you put this hat on and run around the garden with a stick pretending it is a gun”, twenty minutes later the world is saved and it was you that did it.

And our children do not take without giving either, in return if we listen really close we can hear a very clear lesson, a situation is as bad as we decide it is, and the vast majority of the time it is not as bad as we think it is going to be, so next time you feel that the world is caving in and you do not know how to proceed, just stop and close your eyes, and reduce the problem in your mind to what it actually is, just as the fly is not going to steal the ice cream and then take the remainder from the freezer rendering your child’s world ice cream free forever I would be willing to bet that majority of the situations we face everyday are not as big as we make them internally.

And every time you get the chance to save your child from a hell bent insect, or cure tears and a broken heart by running around the garden flapping your arms do so, because if at any point we lose touch with the ones we love then all the late nights and early mornings, all the trailing through blogs like this one looking for inspiration and guidance are for nothing, money alone does not make good company.

So solve the problems be a god, and put them to bed to rest, then smash the hell out of improving all your lives beyond any of your wildest dreams!

Photo by Thierry Fillieul from Pexels

A Conversation with the Mrs

Having only just started this I run pretty much every post past the Mrs to get her opinion on the content and the layout and so on just to make sure I don’t make myself look a clown with spelling mistakes and pictures of balloons when talking about fasting or contracts for difference, she usually makes the right noises and maintains just the right tone of enthusiasm without over doing it and arousing suspicion, however tonight this happens, “what do you think of my nutrition page?” “it is ok, yeah I like it” “ok?” “well I prefer the ones where you talk about the dog and the kids and stuff” “but I haven’t done any wi…..” no ice cube for the ego no ice cream to make me feel better just straight cold truth.

So with vision blurred through tears, I guess I better introduce myself, I thought I had but as she points out even my gravatar is the anonymous mask, so she may have a point.

Truth is I am actually quite a lucky man, I have an awesome wife and three awesome kids that are a constant source of comedy and stress, (not always equal measures) our two Cat’s spend an inordinate amount of time messing with my head, and the dog is as dumb as it is inoffensive, I am in I.T. (now the gravatar makes sense) but don’t panic the closest I get to anonymous is walking into a room and forgetting what I went in for (could possibly be attributed to the cats but I have yet to prove this).

So there it is, that is me, and I am sure that as the follower count drops through the floor I will post “A Conversation with the Mrs #2” where I discuss the death of my blog with the person that suggested I introduce myself!