Thursday August 16, 2018

Zika virus data to be shared by global health communities

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New Delhi: The leading global health bodies, on observing the outbreak of Zika virus, have committed to sharing the data of the same and future public health emergencies as rapidly and openly as possible, said the Wellcome Trust.

This will also include India’s Department of Biotechnology under the Ministry of Science and Technology.

According to a statement by Wellcome Trust on Thursday, a joint declaration has been signed by organisations including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Medecins Sans Frontieres, and the US National Institute of Health.

It is believed that soon, other such bodies will come on board to strengthen the battle against the Zika outbreak, it added.

“Research is an essential part of the response to any global health emergency. This is particularly true for Zika, where so much is still unknown about the virus, how it is spread and the possible link with microcephaly,” said Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of the trust and a signatory to the declaration.

“It’s critical that as results become available they are shared rapidly in a way that is equitable, ethical and transparent. This will ensure that the knowledge gained is turned quickly into health interventions that can have an impact on the epidemic,” Dr Farrar added.

The joint declaration seeks to make “all content concerning the Zika virus free to access”.

“Funder signatories will require researchers undertaking work relevant to public health emergencies to set in place mechanisms to share quality-assured interim and final data as rapidly and widely as possible, including with public health and research communities and the World Health Organisation,” it said.

The Zika virus, which is known to occur in parts of Africa and Asia, is now spreading among the local American who have not traveled abroad.

Currently, no vaccine has been introduced to prevent the virus.

Zika virus is spread through the mosquito biting leading to fever, rash, pain and conjunctivitis. The symptoms can last from days to the week.

Zika virus is supposed to be associated with the infected mothers in Brazil giving birth to babies with small heads and underdeveloped brains. However, this remains unproven yet.

There has been a 20-fold increase in the number of babies born with this condition, known as microcephaly since Zika first appeared in Brazil in May 2015, researchers said.

More than 22 countries in the Americas have reported the sporadic Zika virus infections, indicating its rapid geographic expansion.

Luckily, no case of the virus has been reported till now in India but there is definitely the need to remain alert. (IANS)

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Experts Say That Google Storing Location Data Can Be Easily Absued

According to Jesse Victors, Software Security Consultant at Synopsys, when Google builds a control into Android and then does not honour it, there is a strong potential for abuse.

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Google storing location data has strong potential for abuse: Experts
Google storing location data has strong potential for abuse: Experts. Pixabay

 A day after reports surfaced that certain Google apps track your whereabouts even when you turn off location data, experts on Tuesday expressed concerns about the practice, stressing that location and identity data can be used for both good and bad.

The Associated Press on Monday ran a story saying an investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store users’ location data even if the users explicitly used a privacy setting forbidding that.

Researchers from Princeton University confirmed the findings.

According to Tim Mackey, Technical Evangelist at the US-based tech company Synopsys, it has been widely understood for some time that tech giants like Google use data supplied through the use of their services as part of their efforts to personalize the experience.

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Location History is a Google product that is entirely opt in.Pixabay

“There is a basic saying when it comes to most technology — ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’. For practical purposes, this supply of personal data has been part of the virtual fees we pay to companies in exchange for ‘free’ access to the services provided,” Mackey told IANS.

“With General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU now in effect and regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) on the horizon, companies collecting personal data need to reassess their use of personal data,” he noted.

In a statement given to IANS, Google said that “Location History is a Google product that is entirely opt in, and users have the controls to edit, delete or turn it off at any time.

“As the (AP) story notes, we make sure Location History users know that when they disable the product, we continue to use location to improve the Google experience when they do things like perform a Google search or use Google for driving directions,” said Google.

just turning off Location History doesn't solve the purpose. In Google Settings, pausing "Web and App Activity" may do the trick.
just turning off Location History doesn’t solve the purpose. In Google Settings, pausing “Web and App Activity” may do the trick.

But just turning off Location History doesn’t solve the purpose. In Google Settings, pausing “Web and App Activity” may do the trick.

However, according to the information on Google’s Activity Control page, “Even when this setting is paused, Google may temporarily use information from recent searches in order to improve the quality of the active search session”.

According to Mackey, since we’re talking about consumer-level services, the expectation of the consumer for an “off switch” is what matters most.

“Users wishing their location be kept private indicate this preference through the ‘Location history’ setting. If vendors placed themselves in the shoes of a consumer and respected the setting, managing consent under regulations like GDPR would be simpler and the user’s expectations would be met,” Mackey emphasised.

Also Read: Microsoft’s Android Launcher Now Lets You Track Your Kid’s Location and App Usage

According to Jesse Victors, Software Security Consultant at Synopsys, when Google builds a control into Android and then does not honour it, there is a strong potential for abuse.

“It is sometimes extremely important to keep one’s location history private. Other times, you may simply wish to opt out of data collection. It’s disingenuous and misleading to have a toggle switch that does not completely work,” Victors said. (IANS)