All posts by burnyay93

Why Work for Technology When Technology Can Work for Us?

The Good Old 9-5

The 40 hour work week has been a staple in our society for as long as we can remember. In that time, we have made so many technological advancements that some people are starting to question the practicality of working 9-5, 5 days a week. Even Google co-founder Larry Page thinks people shouldn’t have to work as much.

Something is nagging at me, telling me that there is just something off about the system we’ve been cemented in to. During the industrial revolution, the work week was decreased from 10 hour shifts, to 8 hour shifts. This was caused by the increasing efficiency of workers due to technology, and the realization of what will come to be known as Parkinson’s Law. Long story short, Parkinson’s Law states: the more time someone has to do something, the more time it will take them. This has been proven in a couple of studies.

I have recently been employed by a firm for a full-time accounting position. As much as I love rush hour traffic and next-to-no personal time, I feel like simple changes could increase the productivity and general well-being of employees across the board. With performance enhancing technology such as dual monitors, Microsoft excel, and accounting software, I could walk into the office, punch out everything I need to do in 4 hours, then walk out and enjoy the rest of my day (effectively using the firm’s resources while I’m at it). However, seeing as I’m forced to be here for 8 hours, I tend to spread my work out (maybe even write a blog or two).

That’s not where it ends. With everybody coming and going to work at the same time, traffic congestion (and me wanting to pull my hair out) soon follows. If everybody came to work when they were needed, or just did their work at home, people, governments and the planet would greatly benefit.

Technological Revolution > Industrial Revolution

The only reason that this shortened work week is even feasible in this day and age is because of technology. We are now able to instantly communicate with almost everybody we know due to mobile technology and social networking. If I wanted to, I could instantly contact my long lost friend in Vancouver or my cousins in Illinois at the touch of a button for free.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg people. With mobile data and Google Docs I could balance my spreadsheets from half way around world if I wanted to. But unfortunately, it appears that firms would rather pay you to show up, rather than paying you for the work you produce.

Advances made by Google and Amazon are very important for the reduction of the work week. With things such as Google’s Driverless Car;

and Amazon’s use of Drones;

Humans will be needed less and less, while delivery times, product turn around, and profits are all maximized.

In a Society Intent on 9-5, is the Reduced Week Even Possible?

Yes. Yes it is. Sweden has already implemented a reduced work week for some areas of public sector jobs. This is however an experiment, where some of the civil servants are working the reduced work week, while others are working the traditional 8 hour days. The government expects to find those in the reduced hour week to take “fewer sick days and feel better mentally and physically after they’ve worked shorter days.”

Economists are also on board with the 30 hour work week. They insist that wages will be slightly higher, wealth will be more evenly shared, and employees will take fewer unplanned days off. All effectively improving company’s bottom line and the economy in general.

The Cost of Free Time

Now this is all just from my prospective, a university student who is used to more free time than regular 5-9ers. I don’t have a family to look after, or many bills to pay, but I know that I would rather cut back on unnecessary spending than work 10 extra hours every week for the rest of my life.  But hey, maybe I’m just experiencing a ‘quarter-life crisis’ with the impending end of my university career next fall.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Internet: Capitalism’s Latest Gold Mine

Have you ever seen ads pop up on your sidebar while browsing the internet? Of course you have. The only people that haven’t are those currently living under a rock (with little to no wifi signal). You may have also heard of recent security scandals, where people have found sensitive information being collect by 3rd party companies. These two occurrences may have more in common than you may have thought. That’s why I’m here. The goal of this post is to shine some light on how your hobbies, interests and search patterns mysteriously return as ads on your browser.

Forget the gold, invest in data mines

Companies have used data mining techniques for years. The process of data mining starts by collecting raw information in a data warehouse, and then organizing this data for swift, efficient retrieval and interpretation. Just to put this into perspective, Wal-Mart logs and store over 20 million point of sale transactions each day. This gives them the ability to search through this information and develop marketing segmentation techniques, trend analysis and interactive marketing strategies for its customers.

But what does this have to do with browser security you ask? Well it looks like more and more companies are relying on data mining techniques for effective marketing. These companies are looking towards the internet for a large portion of the browsing habits and interests shown by a perspective customer. Where would these targeted consumers share way too much personal information for everybody to see? You’ve got it. Facebook. 

How many people use facebook?
How many people use facebook?

With corporations relying more heavily on internet trends shown by consumers, 3rd party data collectors are paying more for access and storage of this data. Which means that Mark Zuckerberg is making a mean buck off the 500 million people who are willingly sharing their personal lives on Facebook. Think about it. Where else on the planet are marketers going to find the location, social trends, likes, and dislikes of that many people all in one place. Facebook is a veritable gold mine for everybody involved in data mining, and they’re starting to cash in.

How is my information tracked?

One way websites can track browsing data is through cookies. A cookie is an encrypted text file that is downloaded by your browser when you access a certain site. These text files execute various functions, usually to enhance usability of the site it relates to. However, cookies can be used for less savory purposes. If examined properly, these text files (that can also store information about user history) can be used to track traffic from across sites. This method of viewing browsing habits is technically another version of “Spyware”. However, there are many more malicious forms of Spyware that can be unwillingly acquired through downloading unsafe software. A good anti-virus program can help avoid malware, and is a must have in this day and age if you want your computer to remain safe.

Once 3rd party data miners gather information from consumers, they can provide marketers with fairly comprehensive data about their browsing habits. Some information that marketers are interested in, and have ease finding are: Clickstream Data – the web pages you’ve visited (usually gathered though cookies); Search Data – Things you’ve search on Google or Bing (if anybody still uses Bing); Purchase Data – Think Amazon is keeping your purchase history a secret? Think again; and Profile Data – Information you’ve willingly entered on to social media sites. Once a company has this information, they can build a list of target demographics and form a market segmentation strategy. Marketers then apply these methods and are able to attract consumer by applying ads that relate to customer interests/habits.

Morality Issues

Marketing and 3rd Party Data Collectors have insisted that there is morality behind these methods of gather data. They spew out excuses on how “it will cut costs” and “send the right product to the right consumer faster”. But what they leave out, is that they do this at the expense of our privacy.  In my opinion, we shouldn’t have to figure out that companies were tracking our every move on the internet. It should be their responsibility to blatantly tell users what they are getting in to (not hide it in their privacy policies, cause let’s face it, those are pretty dry). I believe it should be our right to sell our information if we so choose. Cause hey, who doesn’t like ads tailored exactly for them? But you know what I like more? Not having my browser track by God-knows-who.

Helping to prevent unwanted trackers

This video gives a brief overview of what I have explained in my post. It might help summarize my main points of why we need to protect our information, before I dive into how we can protect our information.

-Do not track apps: Certain browsers (such as Safari) have settings that you can turn on to send a “do not track” request to website. The only problem is: websites don’t have to comply. Google Chrome also has a number of anti-tracking apps available on the Chrome Store.

– Read Privacy Policies: I know, I know. Privacy Policies are boring. But hey, there is a reason that we have to accept them with each install, download, or visit to specific sites. If your internet privacy really matters to you, I’d give them a read.

– Be careful with public WiFi: Just imagine shouting at someone across a crowded room. Anyone in the vicinity could keep track of your conversation. Same goes for public wifi. A couple things to make sure of when using non-secure WiFi are: ‘HTTPS’ websites are usually encrypted,  making browsing data harder to track; DO NOT visit websites with sensitive data (online shopping/banking); and be careful with your browsing habits you never know who could be watching.

– Deleting cookies: clearing out your ‘Cookie Cache’ is never a bad idea. They can collect on your browser and take up space, or they could double as spyware. I always clean mine out once a week just to be sure. You can clear you cache by visiting ‘History Options’ in most browsers or download a cleaning software, I recommend this one.

On Guard Online has a lot of helpful videos about remaining secure online. It breaks down how to stay safe while online shopping, using apps, and using public WiFi. Give it a look!

Technology and Distracted Driving

Samuel Gibbs of The Guardian Newspaper writes “Texting while driving hot button issue that has been labeled as a “widespread menace” by Brake, the road safety charity, which has been shown to slow driver reaction by 35% and increase the likelihood of a crash by 23 times for commercial drivers.” (Gibbs, 2014)

The increase of mobile technology has improved human life around the globe, increasing communication, sharing of information, and the efficiency of millions. However, there is one place it does not belong, and that is behind the wheel of a vehicle. A study done by CAA has revealed that in 2013 alone, 4 million crashes were caused by distracted driving in North America.  (CAA, 2014)

This raises the issue, what is society going to do about this rising epidemic? The most expected answer would be to make it illegal, or in this instance, more illegal, seeing as it was first fined in 2007. As of Tuesday March 18th, the penalty for looking at a mobile phone while driving, stopped at a light, or in traffic has increased from $155 to $280. However, the increasing cost of distracted driving will not stop there. The Keeping Ontario’s Roads Safe Act, which was introduced to the Provincial Government on March 17th will exponentially increase the repercussions of being caught chatting or texting while driving. Under this Act, distracted drivers will be charged a minimum $300 and will lose 3 demerit points, while the maximum fine could be upwards of $1000. (Artuso, Ontario set to jack up distracted driving fines to $1,000 plus point, 2014)

But with the expanding range and use of mobile devices, are increasing fines enough to stem rampant use of technology behind the wheel? Transportation Minister Glen Murray doesn’t think so. In an interview with The Toronto Sun Murray states “It took us a long time to get people to try seatbelts – just reach over and click – it took about 20 years. It’s been about a 25 year – campaign to actually reduce drinking and driving.” He goes on to say that it will take much higher penalties, many more demerit points, educational programs and no-tolerance enforcement to quell the onrush of distracted drivers. (Artuso, Distracted Drivers out-kills booze, speeding:OPP, 2014)

This crackdown on mobile devices while driving is very overdue in my opinion. A study done by the OPP finds distracted driving has caused more deaths in 2013 than speeding and even impaired driving, why should it not be treated as seriously? Probably because, unlike driving under the influence, everybody does it, or has done it at some point. In this day and age, with technology and communication so readily available it’s hard not to. But eventually a line will have to be drawn, and I believe that March 17th 2014 was the beginning of that line. Texting and Driving Infographic Via http://www.textinganddrivingsafety.com

Works Cited

Artuso, A. (2014, March 3). Distracted Drivers out-kills booze, speeding:OPP. Retrieved from Toronto Sun: http://www.torontosun.com/2014/03/03/distracted-driving-out-kills-booze-speeding-opp

Artuso, A. (2014, March 17). Ontario set to jack up distracted driving fines to $1,000 plus point. Retrieved from Toronto Sun: http://www.torontosun.com/2014/03/17/ontario-set-to-jack-up-distracted-driving-fines-to-1000-plus-points

CAA. (2014, – -). Distracted Driving. Retrieved from Canadian Automobile Association: http://distracteddriving.caa.ca/education/distractions.php

Gibbs, S. (2014, April 24). Apple’s iPhone ‘lock out’ patent could end texting while driving. Retrieved from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/24/apples-iphone-lock-out-patent-could-end-texting-while-driving