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The ‘personal data’ illusion: time to opt out

The data century is upon us. Modern technology is now a natural part of our daily lives. We are now reliant on our devices as a primary source of information, with one in five adults spending as much as 40 hours a week on the internet.

Every second we spend plugged into this hypothetical digital matrix, is an opportunity for our personal information to be quantified, stored and measured.

What for?

Well, if you believed your data was used exclusively to customise your online content to better enhance your browsing experience, you would be very naïve.

Personal data can generate useful insights into upcoming trends, help to observe how users interact with new products and most of all, it can help predict future buying behaviour.

Your search engine history, your messages, your posts, your contacts, your work history, your location, your media, your leisurely activities you name it, has been sold to large corporations to be analysed so they can find out what you as a consumer want to invest in.

For large corporations, this information has been coined as the new ‘oil’ of the digital era, as your data is now one of their biggest sources of revenue.

Think about it as the equivalent to a cheat code on a game, how can they possibly lose when you are giving them all of the answers?

Companies are basically creating products and services as a response to trends and insights they have accumulated from your online activity, and they are making trillions!

But these ‘Silicon Valley’ mad scientists are greedy and just like technology once upon a time started with one idea and a formula, now, it is being pumped into the bloodstream of each generation – changing life as we know it since the first invention of the Microsoft computer.

Behind the curtains of illusion lies the dirty truth and the truth is your data has been used as a tool against you, to confuse and delude you into making choices and forcing you into beliefs.

Data science is the new digital formula – once created to improve the services of businesses, now, has developed to monitor and influence human behaviour and change the mindset of targetted groups in countries around the world.

Techies are now lurking in dangerous waters; analysing your personal data to work out how you think, whether you can be easily swayed and what group you identify with. They want to know your triggers, whether you can be misled and once they’ve worked out just who you are, they bombard you with targeted videos, advertisements, images and content until they start to influence the way you think, further having monopoly over the choices of you and your whole country.

Look at Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm on paper, but really a huge criminal data mining enterprise, who illegally harvested over 30 million US citizens personal data, to carry out one of the biggest criminal data led campaigns in history to get Donald Trump in office!

How did they do this you ask?

Easy, they targeted you through Facebook, analysed your online behaviour to create customised adverts, videos, images and content which would cater to you personally, but would also sway your political vote.

They painted Hillary Clinton as a criminal in the eyes of the masses. Painted Trump as the business tycoon and Americas economic saviour, and before you know it, he’s president.

Country to country, they played God by manipulating the masses to make decisions to which they had no idea of the consequences. Brazil, Trinidad & Tobago, UK, Kenya, Nigeria, I mean the list goes on.

With more adults using social media as a source of information, it has become even more easier to manipulate decision making, spark racial tension and divide populations around the world?

Look at Facebook, the powerful sinister data brokerage firm, who make a majority of their revenue through the selling of your personal data. They team up with government agencies to spread propaganda and enable discriminatory advertising to be shared on their platform.  

A system once engineered to bring us closer together has single handedly created enough of a divide that we can no longer comprehend what the truth is and what has been manufactured for us to believe.

The ‘user’ accumulating this data has become the victim of their own choices.

Your personal data is gold and you should have the human right to decide how its being used!

Unfortunately, with any commodity, corporations, governments and the latter, are using this information for their own personal gain. Data can create fortunes if it’s exploited in the right way and this should be regulated to avoid the breach of our human rights!

But the introduction of the ‘internet of things’ means your car, your fridge, your watch or TV are now connected to the cloud, generating more data than any application you can opt in or out of. The collection of our data is becoming so seamless, sophisticated and hidden that we are not even given the right to ‘consent’.

Which makes you think what rights do we actually have over our own information?

The Office Meeting – Time to call your bluff

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It’s 09:30am.

The tension is unbearably thick. Accusing eyes scan the room. The boss – the conductor to this orchestra, basques in the awkward silence he has created by his mere presence in the room. He smiles smugly and takes a sip of his steamy beverage.

Nothing goes ahead without him and he knows it.

Decided on his approach, he throws his cards on the table. Cutting through the silence with his bladed tongue, slowly, he begins the sadistic routine of going around the room; picking out each victim one by one, secretly assessing their reaction to his quick fire round of multiple questions. Of course each question is loaded with cruel intention.

Watch out for when he asks for your opinions and your input.

It always starts with a “So, How are you finding things so far?”

This is a test.

Unfortunately, he already knows the answers, but the true revelation comes the moment you realise this test isn’t even for you. It comes the moment you understand you are just a mere pawn in the game of his office politics.

You see, the boss knows you have no clue to his line of questioning. So before you rack your brain desperately trying to conjure up a smart answer, admit your defeat.

Who he really wants to identify is the unappointed shotcaller when he’s not around – observing from the sidelines, waiting for the opportunity to jump in with the answers you don’t have.

The moment they jump in, falling for the trap, he has revealed his cards.

We all know this is no way to play poker.

The quiet new bloods in the corner sink into their seats, already defeated, for the purpose of the inevitable – they just don’t stand a chance!

Welcome to the ‘The office meeting’ – the moment of the day you walk out of a claustrophobic room populated by your coworkers with a feeling of complete delirium, wondering, what the fuck just happened!

Prepare to be humoured by an awkward exchange of words between people whose dry banter would otherwise drain you.

Put on your game face ready for the back and forth power play between seniors. Listen out for the sly insults hidden behind a transparent curtain of sarcasm and gritted teeth. Watch your coworkers as they nod enthusiastically at nonsensical task delegations, from the dictator at the top end of the table.

Meanwhile, you spend most of the time watching a ping pong match of opinions flying from end to end of the grandiose table in a little room, nodding every so often to show you are awake and interested. The whole time you think to yourself, “My job could have been executed perfectly without this information”. Yet you don’t share this opinion, you in fact choose to appease your seniors by smiling in their direction.

Sitting silently, awaiting your gloomy fate of impossible deadlines and targets for the week, you stay quiet and for a moment, your invisible………well, until he sees you.

Deep down, you hate him almost passionately.

You take very shallow breathes.

Admit it, you’ve been tricked. Tricked into attending a time wasting bartering exchange between your seniors, purely for the entertainment of your boss.

The meeting is also the godforsaken part of the day when the guy with the massive ego who likes the sound of his own voice, pipes up for a prolonged speech about………….well, himself. This is also the guy that will ask extra questions to ensure the director smells his not so hidden desires. The self appointed shotcaller at the table waving his cards around. Yes, that prick!

The boss humours him for a while, until he becomes sick of him, then he moves on to his next minion.

The office snitch – who walks pitifully into the arena, head sunken, no eye contact. Aged by years of undermining and empty promises of a promotion that never came.

Gosh I almost feel sorry for the lad as he sits quietly next to the boss.

He’s almost a teachers pet, but rather than being eaten alive, he’s sadly used as an ‘office informant’. The snitch. The one who informs the dictator whose late, under performing or getting divorced.

Yep, don’t feel sorry for him.

Understand that the great white sharks of the office and their evil minions awaiting to catch you alone in the sea, so they can pounce and feast on your blood, all boils down to what happens in that meeting.

What role did you play?

I’ve come to the conclusion that nobody is safe here, so put your best poker face on and be ready to reveal your hand.

London: The fight for a piece of the pie

We all know that in the capital, life is bigger, louder and schedules, are tighter. That being said, there is a majorly naive presumption that there is more opportunity.

There is no wonder that there are so many people flocking here to get a piece of that heavily carbed capitalist pie – that is London in its essence. The naive presumption comes in when you think there is so much opportunity, that you are as entitled to a piece of the pie as anyone else.

Why? Well because you have worked hard enough to be at the table. The education, the experience, the burning ambition to win!

You see the competition here starts way before you have the job, or even during the interview stage.

The moment you come across that first job description, know one thing, there is more than meets the eye and you have literally signed up to the hunger games!

What they don’t tell you Is that this city is full of over qualified dreamers and scarily competitive employees. Once they sniff out competition, the hunger games are on and you have to fight a good fight in order to sit at the table.

By working here, you will notice there is alot of smoke and mirrors, and dont think that behind the scenes there is someone cheering you on. If you are good, you have to be brilliant!

Picture a calm office on the surface. Very quiet, people sit silently and focused. Laser beamed on the task ahead.

Your lucky to hear a pin drop. It’s silent and you can almost taste the stress and anxiety. Behind every banging drum beat of people slamming their fingers into keyboard oblivian, is a floor trembling undercurrent of hatred, jealousy and greed. Nobody says a word. There’s no small talk, just focus and straight faces. Every conversation is calculated

An email too far, a “fuck off” under the breathe and mix of oversized egos are a normal part of office life here.

Everyone is gunning for that position, that title and that intoxicating piece of that pie that smells so good on this boiling melting pot of concrete.

I can see why, as everyone wants to be that somebody, the somebody that makes the decisions, gets picked up by their driver and avoids the overcrowded traffic of savage commuters and sits comfortably upon a pedestal of wealth.

I’ve yet to experience the uplifting northern atmosphere of office banter. I’ve actually been truly spoiled in Manchester, because during my past office experience there; the employees are real people, humans. Not relentless working machines with no soul. When your bored, get up and walk over to another desk, for nothing other than a chat. It is normal for the girls to be chinwagging about boyfriends and big brother in Manchester.

But here in London, where the crown is so heavy and the power is so close that it’s almost as if you have it, here, everyone has this imaginary piece of the pie.

Well, until they really don’t.

Yesterday I turned up for work and got fired: A quick story from an Ex Restaurant Hostess

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There are some moments in life when you just know that you are reaching the end of a specific stage. You have exhausted all avenues, ran in a relentless tirade of circles and reached the stage where you can no longer do the same thing anymore and you move onto something new.

Then there are times where you turn up for work and get fired and your manager tells you:

“Your everyday late, you have been warned and again your everyday late so you show up today on time and you are supposed to show up 10 minutes early, so you can take your uniform off and you can go”

Word for word this is how it was said, with a smug smirk and bad English. I just stood there until the first response that came out of my mouth was:

Will I still get paid?

She confirmed, and after telling her I had no other clothes as I was silly enough to wear my uniform to work, she told me to bring it back another day. She later threatened me and told me I would not get paid If I didn’t bring the dress back, which is highly unethical and unlawful, but I digress.

I share this because I want you to know that you are never safe in this city. One day your in, the next your out and the people here take pride in positions of power no matter how low or high they are, and they will abuse it.

Restaurant turnover is high anyway, and in this specific restaurant there was so much going on behind the scenes that I understood why people left so frequently. Despite these faults the doors continue to sway, and people turn up in the truckloads to be seen and be seated in this place which is purely smoke and mirrors and verging on the slippery slope of going one turn away too far.

Regardless, my time here was short and sweet and I learned so much. But one lesson that I am glad I have finally mastered is to not be late!

London Life: Why reading the paper is Fundamental to Newbies

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13.07.18

Only in London can a Trump visit majorly interrupt your day.

So I am three months into living in this illustrious city and my days are longer and nights are shorter. It is my third month of joining the army of Wimbledon local’s stomping the concrete to the district line (local train) at 7.45am. The moment I got my first, ‘Marning lav’, I realised, I am officially a commuter.

I’ve been squeezed, pushed and shoved out of the way, I’ve been the girl desperately running onto the tube, obstructing the doors from closing behind her with her annoying backpack- whilst locals curse me under their breathe referring to me as a ‘fucking tourist’. I’ve shouted explicit language at the back of buses in central London as they drove past me in spite of me standing there for what felt like hours on end. I’ve been through it all here, but despite my champion ability to just go with the flow, there was one major detail I missed. One important detail in the morning that every resident is never without…………. the fucking newspaper!

Please understand that the daily newspaper is the blueprint to London living.

It is not only used to read, but used as a weapon to hit and an obstruction tool to avoid all eye contact with the person you have just shoved out of the way to either get on the train or sit down. But thats another story.

You see this is not just a newspaper but more of a guide for living. It can be found in every tube station, bus station and empty seat (if you are lucky to find one of those rarities). Picture it as a precursor to what is planned for the day.

The problem emerges the moment you miss the paper, as this is when you miss important information like train delays or strikes! Even dangerous news such as crimes and even terror attacks!

In my case, the one day I missed the paper, I completely missed the news of a major protest and naively walked right into it!

Imagine the shock when I stumbled across hundreds of frustrated residents in the middle of central London marching and banging drums!

My initial thought was …..what in the hell?

Heres the story, I was heading towards Covent garden, and from where I was, google maps, my director and saviour since I have been here, directed me to get the tube from Oxford Circus.

Walking towards the station slowly, I took the longest root. The rationale behind this was that I had a two hour layover between both appointments, so there was no way I could be late.

Strolling slowly, all of a sudden I start to hear what sounded like drums banging in a repetitive rhythm. Not thinking anything of it, I continue to stroll.

It was when I noticed I was no longer strolling alone that things started to become weird. Looking around me, I realised at some point on my stroll towards the station, I picked up a dozen followers.

What was even weirder is we were all walking at the same pace with a purpose in the same direction.

I turned around and I kid you not, there was a whole group of around 20 people following me. Mothers and children, students and randoms. All dressed in what looked like festival dribs and drabs, walking fairly quietly holding placards with words I didn’t even have time to read.

Undetermined by the crowd, I shrugged it off and continued to walk to oxford street, and when I hit the corner I was immediatly bombarded by a sea of placards and banners held proudly in the air by an assemblage of troopers from all walks of life, who walked directly into me sporting their multinational flags.

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You see, If I would have read the paper that week, I would have been informed that Trump was planning a visit to the UK on Friday; and Londoners wanted to make it very clear that Mr Trump knew he was not welcome.

It was loud, it was aggressive it was colourful and vibrant!

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I watched on the sidelines in complete awe, and did what anyone else would do and well, took pictures.

This was just one of the many reminders I have that in London that anything can happen at any time. So for all the newbies in the city, read the fucking paper!