Thursday October 18, 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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EU Expresses Concern Over Facebook Losing Data

Under GDPR, companies can be fined up to four percent of annual global turnover if they fail to abide by the rules.

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This photo shows the logo for Facebook on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square. VOA

The EU’s top data privacy enforcer expressed worry Tuesday that Facebook had lost control of data security after a vast privacy breach that she said affected five million Europeans.

“It is a question for the management, if they have things under control,” EU Justice and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Vera Jourova told AFP in Luxembourg.

“The magnitude of the company … makes it very difficult to manage, but they have to do that because they are harvesting the data and they are making incredible money on using our privacy as the commodity,” she added.

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This Feb. 19, 2014, photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

Jourova spoke just days after Facebook admitted that up to 50 million user accounts around the world had been breached by hackers, in yet another scandal for the beleaguered social platform.

“I will know more … in hours or days but according to our knowledge, five million Europeans have been affected out of those 50, which is an incredible number,” she said.

Jourova said Facebook’s quick revelation of the case demonstrated that new European rules on data protection implemented earlier this year are working.

New EU rules – the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – have been billed as the biggest shake-up of privacy regulations since the birth of the web and give European regulators vast new enforcement powers.

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Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on foreign influence operations and their use of social media on Capitol Hill. VOA

The case for GDPR was boosted by another recent scandal over the harvesting of Facebook users’ data by Cambridge Analytica, a US-British political research firm, for the 2016 US presidential election.

Jourova said the worst cases involve a company finding a major breach then failing to warn authorities or their users, which she said doesn’t appear to be the case in the latest Facebook drama.

Also Read: The European Union Warns Facebook Over Consumer’s Data Usage

Under GDPR, companies can be fined up to four percent of annual global turnover if they fail to abide by the rules, including notification of the data breach within 72 hours.

Facebook met this requirement, Jourova pointed out, which “is one of the factors which might result in lower sanctions, but this is only theoretical”. (VOA)