Did you know that USPS Forever stamps now contain a numbered, QR Code which is of course scannable and trackable? First, lets tackle what a QR Code is. Wikipedia defines a QR Code as,
“QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional barcode) first designed for the automotive industry in Japan. A barcode is a machine-readable optical label that contains information about the item to which it is attached. A QR code uses four standardized encoding modes (numeric, alphanumeric, byte / binary, and kanji) to efficiently store data; extensions may also be used.
The QR Code system has become popular outside the automotive industry due to its fast readability and greater storage capacity compared to standard UPC barcodes. Applications include product tracking, item identification, time tracking, document management, general marketing, and much more.
A QR code consists of black modules (square dots) arranged in a square grid on a white background, which can be read by an imaging device (such as a camera) and processed using Reed–Solomon error correction until the image can be appropriately interpreted. The required data are then extracted from patterns present in both horizontal and vertical components of the image.”
Interestingly enough, QR codes were originally used in the manufacturing industry for managing automobile parts inventory. In recent years they have been utilized for promotional purposes by companies trying to link products and services to customers using smart phones. Now the QR codes can be found on the United States Postal Service stamps you use to mail letters.
Although you can purchase stamps at places like grocery stores and other common stores, the primary source for the new stamps is the US post office in your neighborhood (and online, of course). And when using the USPS vending machine to purchase stamps, you are required to use either a credit card or debit card (cash is not accepted).
And so when we put all these pieces of the stamp puzzle together, we can see that privacy and anonymity for individuals have once again been left in the dust, ostensibly in the name of convenience and technology. Advocates of the new system of stamp dispensation would argue that no one is tracking your stamp use and it’s simply an easier, high tech way of connecting with customers. But we should all question the placement of numbered codes (dispensed by machines that collect your personal banking information) on a simple stamp – especially living in a world where the NSA is admittedly listening to our phone conversations and collecting data on innocent US citizens on a daily basis.
Not worried about your privacy yet? Then check out this article promoting waste management using the QR coding system – tracking your garbage! http://beqrious.com/qr-codes-help-you-dispose-of-garbage-properly/
Apparently (according to the article) we should be more like the Chinese and allow authorities to track our garbage from our doorstep all the way to the landfill. Each trash bag has a scanned code which determines where each bag will go (and reverse-engineering, where it comes from). It’s easy to see that this use of codes creates a slippery slope of tracking systems, and the next question should be where does it end?
Do we really need to be tracking so much of our personal life?
We believe the answer is that a bold line should be drawn where our privacy begins. We don’t need all these tracking devices because it hurts our personal freedom and encourages government oversight and abuse of citizens’ rights.
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As you may have noticed there have been more cyber-attacks on US companies and government organizations lately. The most recent example of a cyber-attack was allegedly conducted by Chinese hackers who infiltrated US Government computers and stole millions of government workers personal data in June 2015. It may not be clear to the layperson what hackers seek to achieve by collecting off-limits data; however, the attack on US Government computers focused on those individuals who had high level security clearances – in other words, those people who are frequently put in charge of sensitive and valuable resources, including data, weapons and other targets. For simplicity sake, it is analogous to breaking into the security guards desk and stealing his keys. The keys aren’t intrinsically valuable, but if the keys unlock the bank vault that is full of gold, then they are infinitely valuable.
Unfortunately, the hackers haven’t stopped there. On July 8, United Airlines, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Stock Exchange ground to a halt after “glitches” caused system shutdown. This occurred on the same day that the Chinese government attempted to shutter it’s own stockmarket to prevent a meltdown. But the mainstream media assured us all that it was just a glitch in the system and definitely not cyber terrorism. Of course, we believe that. Of course…three symbols of American strength go down on the same day? It’s just a coincidence and you are a conspiracy theorist if think otherwise!
Here’s what the group “anonymous” tweeted on July 7th, the day prior to the major outage:
But that’s just a coincidence too. I’m sure Anonymous meant something else altogether.
Some people are afraid that the recent attacks were just warming up for something bigger, and some other concerns that come to mind are our electric grid, nuclear power and fossil fuel processing facilities (like refineries). There are other critical infrastructures within the US, but in my mind, the electric grid is probably the most vulnerable and frightening. In the past, Americans prepared for natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes, nuclear disasters in the 1960s during the cold war and even fuel shortages and disruptions in the 1970s. But what happens if the power grid goes down and stays down for weeks? The answer is not pretty, and probably more frightening than most other disasters I can think of. Are you prepared?
The point is that despite the official state run media blitz stating that the recent cyber attacks were “glitches”, it is clear that more cyber attacks are coming. Prepare.
Privacyliving.com has written more on these subjects, which you can find here on our website.
While Greece is experiencing turmoil and an unclear path forward, individual Greeks are coping with bigger, more immediate problems, such as how to feed their families. If you are following world news outlets you know that Greek banks are closed. When the bank is closed, no money can be withdrawn. When families don’t have any money, they can’t purchase food at the grocery store. This may seem simplistic, but many Greeks are finding out the hard way what happens when you are not prepared.
According to CNN Money, 76% of American families live paycheck to paycheck. This means they are frequently withdrawing cash that was just earned at a job. This also means that 3/4 of Americans are not saving money for difficult times and are not prepared for an emergency. Think of it this way: if you live in a suburban neighborhood like many Americans, 3 out of every 4 neighbors in your neighborhood wouldn’t have enough food to last a week and must go to the grocery store or a restaurant several times each week. Imagine if the power was off for a few days after a bad storm passed through. Your friendly neighbors could become not so friendly, and perhaps want what you have! If you don’t think that disasters happen, then think again; they happen all the time. And the government may not be there to help you.
In 2012, Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast of the US and knocked out power for a week (at one point more than 15 million people had lost power), killed scores of people, affected 18 states and canceled thousands of airline flights. Would you be ready for a disaster if it happened to you? What if the bank is closed and the shelves at the grocery store are empty, like in Greece?
On a personal note, I recommend that you stop what you are reading now and assess your personal situation. What can you do to prepare for a worst case scenario such as a violent storm, power outage, or something more unimaginable, like war? Do you have water, food stored, cash on hand and a means to protect your supplies? Like many Americans, I live in a normal neighborhood where families reside and working people go to work every day to make a living.
Recently we were impacted by seasonal storms that caused a power outage. I felt like I was prepared; I had a flash light, some stored bottled water and a few other items, so I felt confident. However, the storm truly tested my preparedness. I had been monitoring the storm using the local news media’s weather website prior to the storm. When power went down and all the lights went out, I thought I could just depend upon my cell phone to monitor the storm using the local weather app. Murphy’s Law was obviously in play, because when I attempted to access the app, their weather website and app went down. I was surprised, to say the least. But the bad luck continued. My cell phone “froze” and wouldn’t allow me to make calls or even turn it off (it’s an Iphone – go figure)! Luckily, I remembered I had an old battery powered weather radio and I was able to use it to monitor the storm and determine when it had passed. We were also able to use our land line phone, which doesn’t require power to operate (unless you have a cordless phone). Who says old world technology like land line phones and weather radios are dead??
Another angle that I’d like to add to my experience was the human factor. While I was busy trying to secure my family during the storm (we stayed in our closet) and solve communication problems, another dangerous tale was playing out in my neighborhood. There’s a small convenience store in my neighborhood that also experienced the power outage as we did. Despite the fact that the power outage seemed to last forever, in reality the outage only lasted for 2-3 hours. Yet I found out later that a thug attempted to break into the neighborhood store, but was dissuaded when the owner of the store used a little “fire power” demonstration. He quickly tucked his tale and ran. But what might have happened if things were different?
When I found out about the potential looter days later I was shocked. Crime in our neighborhood is practically non-existent and most people in the neighborhood take pride in being friendly and trustworthy. The small town camaraderie and familiarity is alive and well; yet it only took an hour or two for someone to reduce the situation to looting. Are you prepared to defend yourself and your family if looters show up at your door during the storm?
Soon enough, Greeks may be experiencing the negative effects that follow a major catastrophe, natural or otherwise. Hopefully they (and you) will remember that luck always favors the prepared. Be prepared, for anything.