Hacking Democracy with Big Data, Fake News and Big Money

STARTING with the Channel 4 exposé of Cambridge Analytica, and now the NaMo app that sends data to, we are beginning to realise the impact of big data on elections. If we combine this with fake news – the recent MIT report that shows how fake or false news travels faster, deeper and wider than real news – we realise the danger of uncontrolled use of new technologies. Not only can they be used to sell us commodities we don’t need; they can also sell us toxic politics.

The Delhi Solar Summit: Posturing without Substance

THE International Solar Alliance (ISA) that met in Delhi recently, is envisaged as a grand inter-governmental coalition of sun-rich nations, i.e., countries that lie fully or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The objective of the ISA is to facilitate members to ‘collectively address key challenges to scaling up solar energy’. These ‘key challenges’, as understood by the ISA Framework Agreement, include solar finance, solar technologies, innovation, research and development, and capacity building.

Who is Cheering for ‘Modicare’?

HYPERBOLES are the hallmark of the Modi government, especially empty hyperboles that are passed off as public policy. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s announcement during his budget speech, of the world’s “largest government funded health care programme”, outdid all previous records of the Modi government in making inflated claims. Quickly named ‘Modicare’ by the spin doctors of the BJP, the announcement was lapped up unquestioningly by sections of the corporate controlled media.

The Myth of Bitcoin as Money

THE cryptocurrency Bitcoin has seen its price see-sawing wildly over the last 12 months, making it one of the most volatile of assets. Whether it can be considered at all a currency – a token of money which can be exchanged for other goods – is another question. At its current price in dollars – 1 bitcoin is trading for $9,120, down by about half from its highest price of $19,206 a month back. It is still nine times what it was trading only 12 months ago. Among all cryptocurrencies, and there are more of them, Bitcoin is by far the biggest.

Why Science Scares the RSS/BJP: Curious Case of Satyapal Singh

SATYAPAL Singh, the minister of state for human resources development (HRD), and a former police officer, while speaking in the All India Vaidik Sammelan, has attacked the theory of evolution – which he foolishly calls Darwinism – asking that it be removed from school and college education. In this, he has been backed by Ram Madhav, the general secretary of the BJP, who has quoted the Christian Right on creationism – now called “intelligent design” – being a substitute for the theory of evolution.

Aadhaar Security: The Emperor has no Clothes

MOST people assume that critics of Aadhaar are concerned about citizens fundamental right to privacy, or the loss of statutory benefits such as rations due to a faulty Aadhaar system. Two recent cases – that reported recently by Tribune and the French security researcher reporting on the novice-level security of the mobile App of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) – brings out a completely different threat. This is identity theft and therefore, the possibility of attacks from criminals on our bank accounts.

Why the 2G Judgement is Wrong

THE Special Court judge Saini in his judgements running into thousands of pages on the 2G spectrum issue, seems to believe that let alone criminality, there was nothing wrong with the procedures that A Raja and his cronies adopted. His world, in which the allotment of 2G licenses or spectrum occurred, appears to be in a parallel universe from that in which the Controller of Auditor General (CAG), the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court operated. All of them found A Raja and his close associates guilty of arbitrary changing of rules to help certain favoured companies.

National Medical Commission Bill not in Public Interest

THE National Medical Commission Bill, 2017, recently approved by the union cabinet, has now been referred to a parliamentary standing committee after protests by various sections of the medical profession.  The bill is designed to replace the Indian Medical Council Act of 1956. The bill was drafted in the aftermath of several scandals that rocked the Medical Council of India in the past decade.