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In 2018, technology firms such as Facebook and Google faced more scrutiny and negative press over their handling of data breaches and online speech. The issue may mean new rules and more regulations in the future.
The question of who can access personal user data through technology caused many people to rethink how much they trust these companies with their private information. At a recent hearing, House Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy grilled Google over accusations it uses algorithms to suppress conservative voices.
“Are America’s technology companies serving as instruments of freedom? Or instruments of control? Are they fulfilling the promise of the digital age? Are they advancing the cause of self-government? Or are they serving as instruments of manipulation used by powerful interests and foreign governments to rob the people of their power, agency, and dignity?,” he said.
At the hearing, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said he runs the U.S. technology giant without political preference.
In October, Google acknowledged that several months earlier, it had discovered a data breach involving its Google Plus service, which the company said would be shut down.
Pantas Sutardja, chief executive of data storage company LatticeWork Inc., says such scandals are forcing the companies to take a closer look at how they manage and protect user content.
“2018 has been a challenging year for tech companies and consumers alike. Company CEOs being called to Congress for hearings and promising profusely to fix the problems of data breach but still cannot do it,” said Sutardja.
Also this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced tough questions from U.S. lawmakers over a breach that allowed a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, to exploit the data of millions of Facebook users. Zuckerberg apologized to lawmakers, but some legislators say the giant social network cannot be trusted to regulate itself.
Separately, the attorney-general for Washington, Karl Racine, said the U.S. capital had sued Facebook over reports involving Cambridge Analytica’s use of data from the social media giant.
The year saw new revelations that foreign operatives were using social media to secretly spread divisive and often bogus messages in the United States and worldwide. Walt Mossberg, a former tech journalist, says consumers are frustrated.
“It doesn’t matter to whose benefit they were operating. What bothers people here is that a foreign country, using our social networks, digital products and services that we have come to feel comfortable in, a foreign government has come in and used that against us,” he said.
The Facebook data breach has prompted companies like Latticework to create new ways for users to protect their information and themselves, Sutardja says.
“Despite apologizing profusely about leaking customer data, they can’t do anything about it because their real master, their boss is Wall Street,” he said.
User data was just one area in which tech firms came under criticism. Under pressure, social media companies tightened restrictions on the kinds of speech they tolerate on their sites.
And workers pressed managers about their companies’ government contracts and treatment of female colleagues.
Mossberg says he wants federal law to limit U.S. internet firms’ collection and use of personal data.
“These are giant companies now. There really are four or five of them that control everything. And governments and citizens of countries around the world need the right to regulate them without closing down free speech. And that’s tricky,” he said.
Mossberg says he has given up Facebook. (VOA)
Canadian researchers have discovered an overlooked gene that plays a major role in the development of antibodies, which help the immune system recognize and fight viruses including SARS-CoV-2, bacteria and other causes of infectious disease. The gene -- FAM72A -- facilitates production of high-quality antibodies by enabling the effect of an enzyme called AID (for Activation-Induced Deaminase), the researchers showed.
Immunologists have known for two decades that AID is essential to produce antibodies capable of clearing infections, but the full mechanism of its effect has remained unknown. "Our findings answer the long-standing question of how AID does its work," said Alberto Martin, a professor of immunology at the University of Toronto's Temerty Faculty of Medicine. "FAM72A helps AID to promote mutations in antibody genes that are essential for the development of effective antibodies," he added.
Genetic mutations that lead to lasting changes in DNA occur through a process called mutagenesis. | Pixabay
Genetic mutations that lead to lasting changes in DNA occur through a process called mutagenesis. In the context of antibody development, mutagenesis unfolds largely through the AID-driven mechanisms called somatic hypermutation and class switch recombination -- both of which help antibodies gain the diversity and potency they need to counter a wide range of pathogens.
The results published in the journal Nature will help researchers better understand antibody development broadly, but they also have implications for cancer. Uncontrolled mutagenesis in B cells that produce antibodies is linked to B cell lymphoma, and FAM72A is present at very high levels in other cancers such as gastrointestinal, breast, lung, liver and ovarian cancers.
"Our data show that high levels of FAM72A promote mutations in antibody genes, so increased levels of FAM72A could spur cancer development, progression or drug resistance by increasing mutagenesis,a Martin said. Martin's team is now exploring those possibilities. Intriguingly, unlike other mammals, humans have four gene versions of FAM72A and their roles in cancer and antibody production are still unknown. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: researchers, cancer, mutagenesis, antibody, development, antibodies, canada, COVID
Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL), a subsidiary of Coal India will set up a 50 megawatt (MW) solar power plant in Odisha's Sambalpur at a total cost of Rs 301.92 crore, moving steadily towards its goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2024. MCL has placed a turnkey order to set-up a 50 MW solar power plant with a Chennai-based firm M/s Hild Energy Ltd, which will establish this green energy project within a timeline of 10 months, the MCL said in a statement on Saturday.
This solar plant would cater to the captive power requirement of MCL. The Central PSU had successfully set-up a 2MW solar power plant in Sambalpur in 2014. The company said it has pledged a target of installing 182 MW of solar power by 2024 in order to become a net zero energy company, aligning itself to use cleaner forms of energy for coal production.
The company said it has pledged a target of installing 182 MW of solar power by 2024. | Photo by Mariana Proença on Unsplash
This 50 MW solar power project will reduce CO2 emission by 91,020 tonnes per annum and carbon offsets of around 24,824 tonnes per annum, claimed the MCL. MCL is the leading production subsidiary of Coal India, having mining operations in Angul, Jharsuguda and Sundargarh districts of Odisha. Having achieved the highest ever capital expenditure of Rs 2,419 crore in the financial year 2020-21, the company has coal production and dispatch targets of 163 million tonnes and 182 million tonnes, respectively.
MCL was the coal mining company to introduce environment-friendly surface miner technology, which contributes over 95 per cent in coal production. As another environment-friendly initiative, the company has successfully introduced vertical rippers for blast-less over-burden removal in Hingula and Kaniha opencast projects. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: solar plant, carbon neutrality, Odisha, Sambalpur, Coal India, subsidiary, Mahanadi Coalfields Limited, solar energy
As the nation celebrated the 114th birth anniversary of his father - renowned poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan - megastar Amitabh Bachchan remembered his dad as he penned a heartfelt note for him. The actor took to his blog where he poured his heart out and also shared an unseen photo with his father. The image in question is from Big B's wedding in 1973, where the two are caught in a sweet moment as they look at each other.
Amitabh Bachchan wrote on his blog,
"My Father , my all .. November 27th his birth in the year 1907 .. Which makes it his 114th Anniversary .. He is in the heavens, with my Mother and they celebrate .. as do we , in thought word and deed .. (sic). But first."
He then posted the picture followed by elaborate paragraphs. The megastar wrote,
"Those rare moments when one would find himself rushing against the winds to prevent the distance between us and to close it down as soon as it can be. The day of my wedding and his expression of fulfilment to not just be in congratulation but instead to be in the face of a belief, a chime, an ultimate season of love and great passion, of the quarries of the fears and conditionings of these deprived gym routines kart ..(sic)". "This could have been unknown for long facilitating years, to give not expected versions and lastly large scale informations of the insides ; but as time passed by, as does now , they explained purposely, the values of education and similarity .. Be in peace and love .. (sic)",
the veteran actor concluded his note. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Amitabh Bachchan, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, actor, blog, birth anniversary, 114th birthday