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Aadhaar linkage with social media is troublesome

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As a debate rages on over the floating idea of linking Facebook accounts to Aadhaar, it is time we ponder if this is the only option or there are other better solutions that could not just secure the digital and social media lives of citizens but also ensure their privacy and safety.

The main intention of this much discussed about linkage is just one — to stop fake news which gets viral and heavily propagated via social media in almost no time. In my humble opinion, linking Indian people’s Aadhaar with social media is not a panacea for the fake news plague. Fake news can be curbed on social media by taking other suitable measures.

Cyberspace is like an ocean — endless and limitless — and we just cannot restrict it by or within any geography. There is no Indian internet as such — we obviously don’t want to be like China or North Korea who have taken some measures to that effect! Do we? And for a second even if we assume that we link all our social media profiles with Aadhaar, can we still protect our citizens from being served fake news by accounts from outside our shores.

Another issue is cyber security and data privacy of Indian citizens. We have already seen many cases of late when customer data from big and small companies have been hacked into and compromised including Facebook, Google, banking, financial and health data etc. Even in this case, Facebook is openly saying that it is worried about the safety and privacy of its users’ data and would not want to go for the linkage but the Indian government wants to. My reason against the linkage is that since Aadhaar has almost all information related to our bank accounts we must avoid treading that path.

In an earlier instance, there was a decision to link the Aadhaar with mobile connections but later the decision was revoked due to fears of misuse of Aadhaar data. Still, even in that linkage, the solace was that most of the mobile network companies are Indian and they have servers located in India itself. Facebook and Whatsapp, etc. have their offices in other countries and the government has almost no control over them. As per Indian government intent all Indian data must be kept within the country only but in this case, we would be going against that spirit of data localization and sending our data to international countries. This could also have severe ramifications on national security if there is any big breach.

Also, we must understand a social media account is a private account of a person — it necessarily does not have to be linked to a government database just for the sake of privacy — linking with Aadhaar will be jeopardizing the independence and democratic rights of the person for one never knows know that data may be misused by the companies or the government of the day.

We all know how our privacy has already been compromised by Alexa, Google, Apple and products of other companies that can listen to even our drawing room and bedroom coversation and it has already been proved in several instances which have also been widely reported. Rather, as a country, we must focus on investing on research to develop the technology to save our virtual space and not open our data for any misuse.

Most of the folks and younger generation use social media from their phones. There are already norms that every phone number needs to be verified — the need of the hour is to get them implemented more stringently on the ground. Phone verification in my opinion is a better idea. This will solve the issue at the source itself and privacy will also not be violated in any manner. So anyone who then peddles or spreads fake news can be held accountable by enforcement agencies in no time. This will take care of the concerns of the people as well as the government.

We can also look at the KYC option of linking social media accounts via the traditional physical verification option or through the references options just we do while opening a bank account. Another most pertinent aspect is the awareness and training for the people at large. Several platforms including newspapers and TV channel are already doing fake news checks or fact checks every day leading to better informed citizens. They publish the viral fake news and along with the fake news they publish the facts. But, more is needed. There is also a big need to create awareness among the users to stop propagating fake news and verify the news because in the long run an educated consumer of news is the best antidote to fake news.

But these may take time. So, as of now, phone number and email verifications instead of Aadhaar linkage are the best immediately available options which will take care of the fake news disease without any side effects that an Aadhar linkage cure may bring along.

(Sanjay Kaushik is MD of Netrika Consulting and is an expert in cyber security and cyber forensics)

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Covid-19 corollaries on the dairy sector: CRISIL

Overall, demand for milk and dairy products would be lukewarm in the near term, so prices are unlikely to boil over, according to the report.

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New Delhi, May 26 : Supply chain disruptions in the early weeks of the nationwide lockdown, and bread-and-butter issues for hotels, restaurants and cafes, have materially reduced demand for dairy products.

This is despite supply of most dairy products continuing during the lockdown, since they are categorised as essentials.

The shuttering of hotels and dine-ins has also dried up off-take of skimmed milk powder and khoya.

According to report by CRISIL Research on the state of dairy industry and supply chains, products that can’t be made at home easily – such as cheese, flavoured milk and also khoya – haven’t found their way back to the dining table in the same quantities as before the lockdown.

Demand for ice creams, which usually peaks in summer (accounting for 40 per cent of annual sales) has just melted away. Rural areas, which are feeling the income pinch more, seem to be staying off butter and ghee, the report by global analytics firm has said.

To be sure, since the third week of April, supply chains have turned smoother, so demand for staples such as milk, curd, paneer and yogurt are expected to see a quick rebound, leading to on-year expansion in sales, CRISIL said.

The pandemic, however, may sour the business for unorganised dairies because of pervasive contamination fears.

Conversely, as consumers shift, revenues of organised dairies and packaged products should fatten.

Overall, demand for milk and dairy products would be lukewarm in the near term, so prices are unlikely to boil over, according to the report.

Large brands such as Amul and Mother Dairy had already hiked retail milk prices by 4-5 per cent last fiscal. They may not serve an encore.

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445 people died from Australia bushfires smoke: Experts

Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra all had periods where they had the worst air quality in the world as a result of the smoke.

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Arogya Setu App

Canberra, May 26 : Smoke from Australia’s devastating 2019-20 bushfires killed at least 445 people, health experts revealed on Tuesday.

Fay Johnston, a public health expert from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania, told the bushfire royal commission on Tuesday that her team estimated that 445 people died as a result of the smoke that blanketed much of the nation’s east coast, reports Xinhua news agency.

It takes the total death toll from the 2019-2020 bushfire season, which has been dubbed the “Black Summer”, to nearly 480 after 34 people lost their lives directly.

According to modelling produced by Johnston and her colleagues, 80 per cent of Australians were affected by the smoke at some point, including 3,340 people who were hospitalized with heart and lung problems.

“We were able to work out a yearly cost of bushfire smoke for each summer season and… our estimates for the last season were A$2 billion in health costs,” Johnston said.

“There’s fluctuation year to year, of course, but that was a major departure from anything we had seen in the previous 20 years.”

Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra all had periods where they had the worst air quality in the world as a result of the smoke.

Commissioners also heard on Tuesday that the increasing frequency of significant bushfire events in Australia meant that survivors no longer feel safe during the recovery phase.

“Disasters are no longer perceived as rare events, they are often seen as climate change, and they’re part of our new reality,” Lisa Gibbs, a child welfare expert from the University of Melbourne, said.

“We don’t know how that is going to affect recovery because the seeds of hope are a really important part of people’s ability to deal with what has happened and to get back on track.”

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Rising urbanization likely cause of heavy rainfall in South: Research

Their findings were reported in the ‘Quarterly Journal of Royal Meteorological Society’ on May 18, 2020.

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IMD heavy rains predict

Hyderabad, May 26 : A team of researchers at the University of Hyderabad (UoH) have discovered a link between heavy rainfall in several parts of south India and a growing urbanisation in the region.

A team led by Prof. Karumuri Ashok from the Centre for Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences of the University of Hyderabad, examined whether a common factor, the changing ‘land use land cover’ (LULC) in these states, has any implications for the heavy rainfall events.

Over the past few years, many heavy rainfall events have been reported in cities of south India. Prominent among them are the extreme rainfall that created havoc in Chennai and nearby areas of Tamil Nadu in December 2015, the heavy rainfall over Hyderabad and adjoining regions in Telangana in September 2016, and the extreme rainfall event in Kerala in August 2018.

Notably, these three states differ in their geographical locations, and also the season in which they receive rainfall. Kerala, located on the southwest Indian coast off the Arabian Sea receives heavy rainfall during the summer monsoon from June-September.

Tamil Nadu, off the Bay of Bengal, receives rainfall mainly during the northeast monsoon (October-December). The land-locked state Telangana receives the bulk of its annual rainfall during the summer monsoon season.

A UoH statement stated that their study showed the precipitation during heavy rainfall events in these states has significantly increased from 2000 to 2017. Using the LULC data from ISRO, and by conducting 2 km resolution simulation experiments of twelve heavy rainfall events over the states, the researchers found distinct LULC changes in these three states, which led to higher surface temperatures and a deeper and moist boundary layer. These in turn caused a relatively higher convective available potential energy and, consequently, heavier rainfall.

The study also suggests that increasing urbanization in Telangana and Tamil Nadu is likely to enhance the rainfall during the heavy rainfall events by 20%-25%. Prof. Ashok feels that improving the density of observational rainfall and other weather parameters may help in forecasting extreme rainfalls at city level.

Their findings were reported in the ‘Quarterly Journal of Royal Meteorological Society’ on May 18, 2020.

Prof. K. Ashok and his Ph.D. student Mr. A. Boyaj who is the first author, are both from the Centre for Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences of the University of Hyderabad. The work was done in collaboration with Prof. Ibrahim Hoteit and Dr Hari Prasad Dasari of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia.

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