Daily Current Affairs : 19th June 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Cowin Data breach
  2. ICET
  3. Right to Life
  4. Y Chromosomes
  5. Facts for Prelims

1 . CoWIN Data Breach

Context: A reports emerged that a bot on the messaging platform Telegram was allegedly returning personal data of Indian citizens who registered with the COVID-19 vaccine intelligence network (CoWIN) portal for vaccination purposes.

About the News: Sensitive personal details including date and place of vaccination, with Aadhaar, PAN, Passport, Voter ID, & Mobile numbers were circulating on the internet-based messaging platform Telegram. But the Union Government denies it.

About CoWIN Portal

  • CoWIN or Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network app, a digital platform designed to streamline the registration and distribution of vaccines.
  • Launched in early 2021, the CoWIN app played a pivotal role in India’s vaccination campaign, facilitating online registration, appointment scheduling, and vaccination certificates.

What are the significance of this portal?

  • The platform, on a real-time basis, tracks vaccines and beneficiaries at the national, State, and district levels.
  • It monitors vaccine utilisation and wastage and maintains an inventory of the vials.
  • For citizens, CoWIN verifies identity, helps schedule vaccine appointments, and issues a vaccine certificate.
  • The database captures information flowing from four separate input streams — citizen registration; health centres; vaccine inventory; and vaccine certificates. Each stream functions independently, and at the same time exchanges data to minimise redundancies.
  • Features– The platform is a microservices-based, cloud-native architecture developed from the ground up on Amazon Web Services (AWS). A microservice architecture is a pattern that arranges an application as a collection of loosely linked, fine-grained services. These services interact with each other through certain set protocols.

What is the background to the data breach?

  • The breach – which allegedly involved a third-party website that was able to access and display vaccination data of individuals registered with the CoWIN app – made the personal data of lakhs of Indians susceptible to misuse. This data included names, phone numbers, Aadhaar number, Passport details and vaccination status.
  • Such breaches not only compromise individuals’ privacy but also erode public trust, potentially hampering vaccination efforts and undermining confidence in digital public infrastructure. And there is no record of any investigation being carried out by CERT-In in connection with these data leaks. Even the vulnerability notes which the nodal cybersecurity agency shared on a regular basis made no reference to these breaches.

How did the Telegram bot get access to CoWIN-related data?

  • A Cloud providers like AWS, Microsoft’s Azure and Google Cloud typically provide security only for the underlying infrastructure, and not for securing the applications and databases.
  • Customers hosting their data are responsible for what they build in a cloud environment. The absence of AWS in CERT-In’s vulnerability notes last year could mean there was no security lapse at the cloud infrastructure’s end.
  • While the cloud offers superior security compared to traditional data centres, legacy systems deployed in virtual servers are the weak links in the chain. Such links are a perfect route for hackers to gain entry into a database. This shifts the focus to CoWIN, which was built leveraging legacy software tools. So, an entry point for those behind the bot may have been an old system that was connected to the portal.
  • Reasons for data leaks –Cybersecurity experts have attributed data leaks to human error or negligence in setting up databases in the cloud. Misconfiguring a system, or involvement of third-party apps with limited privacy features, could have also exposed user data to unauthorised people.

How does the CoWIN data breach impact any of us?

  • The data leaked contains a person’s phone number, their Aadhaar number that cannot be changed, date-of-birth information and family details, which too cannot be altered. It can also potentially help anyone identify the area a person might be residing in by leaking information about the vaccination centre
  • A scamster can manipulates or deceives the victim in order to gain control of their computer system or to steal their financial or personal information.
  • A scamster can use an Aadhaar number, photoshop it and use it to open a bank account, which is identity theft.  

What are current legal provisions for privacy and data leaks?

  • The data protection bill remains in draft stage. A data protection law could be a useful tool in fixing accountability and building safeguards around the use and processing of personal data.
  • In 2017, the Supreme Court of India recognised privacy as a fundamental right, highlighting the need to protect personal information. But the country is still struggling to frame a personal data protection policy.

2 . Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET)  

Context: As a part of the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) announced by President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year, India and the United States unveiled a roadmap for enhanced collaboration in high-technology areas, with a focus on addressing regulatory barriers and aligning export controls for smoother trade and “deeper cooperation” in critical areas.  

What is iCET?

  • The Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies is a framework agreed upon by India and the U.S. for cooperation on critical and emerging technologies in areas including artificial intelligence, quantum computing, semiconductors and wireless telecommunication. It was launched to strengthen their strategic partnership and drive technology and defence cooperation.
  • This framework was announced on the sidelines of the Quad meeting in Tokyo in May 2022.

What are the focus areas of the initiative?

  • Primarily, the iCET seeks to position New Delhi and Washington D.C. as “trusted technology partners” to build supply chains and support the co-production and co-development of items.  
  • Focus areas of the initiatives are
    • Setting up a research agency partnership to drive collaboration in areas like AI;
    • Developing a new defence industrial cooperation roadmap to accelerate technological cooperation for joint development and production;
    • Developing common standards in AI;
    • Developing a roadmap to accelerate defence technological cooperation and ‘innovation bridge’ to connect defence startups;
    • Supporting the development of a semiconductor ecosystem;
    • Strengthening cooperation on human spaceflight;
    • Advancing cooperation on development in 5G and 6G; and
    • Adopting OpenRAN network technology in India.

What has been the progress so far?

  • The two countries have already put in place the Quantum Coordination Mechanism, launched a public-private dialogue (PDD) on telecommunication to drive collaboration in OpenRAN, 5G and 6G, and held “important exchanges” on AI and space
  • India and the U.S. signed an MoU on establishing a semiconductor supply chain that paved the way for creating a semiconductor sub-committee to review recommendations from an industry-led task force launched in connection with the iCET.
  • On the defence front, the two countries are close to concluding a mega jet engine deal, with a final announcement expected this week
  • A new initiative to advance cutting-edge technology cooperation, known as the India-U.S. Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X), is set to be launched during the visit.
  • India and the U.S. have also concluded a roadmap for ‘Defence Industrial Cooperation’ to guide the policy direction for the next few years.
  • The two countries have also established a Strategic Trade Dialogue to remove regulatory “barriers” and review existing export control norms to take forward strategic technology and trade collaborations envisaged under iCET

3 . Right to Life

Context: Allowing a man called Shahnawaz to change his name to Md. Sameer Rao, the Allahabad HC said the fundamental right to keep or change one’s name is vested in every citizen under Articles 19(1)(a), 21, and 14 of the Constitution.

Background of the issue

  • In ‘Sadanand & Anr. vs CBSE & Ors’, a plea was filed by two brothers before the Delhi HC seeking to set aside a letter issued by the CBSE on June 1, 2017, refusing to change their father’s last name from ‘Mochi’ to ‘Nayak’ in their 10th and 12th Board certificates.
  • In ‘Md. Sameer Rao vs. State of U.P.’ the Allahabad HC dealt with a petition filed against an order dated December 12, 2020, passed by the Regional Secretary, Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad, Regional Office, Rai Bareli, rejecting Shahnawaz’s application to change his name to “Md. Sameer Rao” in his High School and Intermediate certificates, seemingly “for a higher sense of self-worth”.
  • Why were their name-change requests denied by the authorities?In ‘Sadanand & Anr. vs CBSE & Ors’, the CBSE contended that a change in the surname of the petitioners would subsequently entail a change in their caste, which could be misused. It also said that seeking a change in the father’s name beyond the school records is not permissible.
  • In ‘Md. Sameer Rao vs. State of U.P.’ the state argued that a change in the name is not an absolute right and is subject to restrictions imposed by law.
  • About Court Verdicts:Allahabad High Court ruled that the action of the authorities violated the fundamental rights of the petitioner guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a), Article 21, and Article 14 of the Constitution.
  • Delhi High Court ruling noted that the father had decided to change his surname “in order to overcome the social stigma and the disadvantage faced” by his sons and that CBSE’s denial to carry out the requisite change in the certificates was “totally unjustified”.

What did the courts say about Article 21?

  • In both the Delhi and Allahabad High Court cases, a common thread of Article 21 was found running.
  • The Allahabad HC observed that the “right to keep a name of choice or change the name according to personal preference comes within the mighty sweep of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21.”
  • The Allahabad HC relied on the 2020 and 2021 rulings delivered by the Delhi HC and Supreme Court in “Rayaan Chawla vs. University of Delhi” and “Jigya Yadav vs. CBSE” to say that “name is an intrinsic element of identity,
  • The court also said that “There is no denying the fact that the Right to Life includes within its ambit, the Right to Live with Dignity,” which includes “not to be tied down by any casteism” faced by a person due to the caste to which he or she belongs.
  • Thus, the Delhi HC ruled that “if a person wants to change his or her surname”, to not be “identified with any particular caste” that “may be a cause of prejudice” to them “in any manner”, the same is permissible.

What are some restrictions on the right to change names?

  • Although the right to change or keep one’s name is a fundamental right “by virtue of Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21”, it is not an absolute right and is subject to various reasonable restrictions, as the Allahabad High Court clarified in Sameed Rao’s case.
  • However, the restrictions imposed by law on fundamental rights have to be fair, just, and reasonable, the court said, citing the 2017 SC ruling in “K. S. Puttaswamy vs. Union of India
  • The procedure for the deprivation of such rights must be “fair, just, and reasonable”
  • The court also highlighted the principle of proportionality as an “essential facet of the guarantee against arbitrary state action,” since it ensures that the nature and quality of the right’s encroachment are not disproportionate to the law’s purpose.

Article 21 of Indian Constitution

  • Article 21. Protection of Life and Personal Liberty: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
  • The object of the fundamental right under Article 21 is to prevent encroachment upon personal liberty and deprivation of life except according to procedure established by law. It clearly means that this fundamental right has been provided against state only.
  • If an act of private individual amounts to encroachment upon the personal liberty or deprivation of life of other person. Such violation would not fall under the parameters set for the Article 21. in such a case the remedy for aggrieved person would be either under Article 226 of the constitution or under general law. But, where an act of private individual supported by the state infringes the personal liberty or life of another person, the act will certainly come under the ambit of Article 21

4 . Y Chromosomes

Context: The Y chromosome, often referred to as the “master of maleness”, has long captivated scientists and historians alike.

What is Y chromosome?

  • In humans, in addition to the 22 pairs of chromosomes in each, humans have a pair of sex chromosomes called X and Y. Sex as a specification is determined by these sex chromosomes. They carry sex-determining genes. All biological males have X and Y chromosomes, and all biological females have two X chromosomes. The ‘sex-determining region Y’ on the Y chromosome determines the biological male sex.

What are the characteristics of Y chromosome?

  • Estimated to have emerged around 200-300 million years ago in a common ancestor of all mammals, the Y chromosome has had a unique genetic journey, and embedded within its DNA lies a remarkable tale of evolution.
  • Scientists published the complete genetic sequence of the Y chromosome in 2003. This sequence provided an outline of 23 million bases of the 60 million or so bases that together make up the Y chromosome. In total, the chromosome encoded for only 55 genes and accounted for around 2% of the genetic material inside a cell.
  • Characteristics– Y Chromosome has abundance of repetitive sequences, poor functional utility (with a small number of genes), reluctance to socialise (i.e. recombine with other chromosomes), and a high proclivity to degenerate over the course of evolution.
  • Because it has little potential to recombine, the diminutive Y chromosome has been passed from father to son, carrying the legacy of generation

Why does the Y chromosome matter?

  • In a landmark genetic study, published in March 2003 in the American Journal of Human Genetics, researchers reported that around 0.5% of all the men in the world have inherited a Y chromosome from the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan or one of his descendants. While the Y chromosome has been at the center of many scientific and social controversies involving sex determination and gender discrimination, it would be better off not underestimating its influence on other aspects of health as well.
  • In fact, contrary to initial assumptions that the chromosome is degenerating and shrinking over time, and possibly has little functional role, researchers have discovered of late that the Y chromosome possesses genes that are vital to biological functions, including those linked to ageing and lifespan regulation.
  • In the animal kingdom (including mammals), scientists have noticed substantial differences in lifespan between the sexes: the females tend to live longer than the males. This phenomenon has been attributed largely to the absence of a second Y chromosome in males, exposing the deleterious mutations in the X chromosome.
  • It is also well known that men lose the Y chromosome (LoY) with age and that this is associated with a higher frequency of cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and a shorter lifespan.

Do humans lose the Y chromosome?

  • Studies conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, U.S., and Uppsala University, Sweden, together with others have shown that LoY in humans occurs with age and is associated with several debilitating medical conditions – a finding that has been validated in mice with LoY, resulting in weak heart muscles (cardiomyopathy), stretched or thickened heart tissue (fibrosis), and heart failure.
  • Researchers have also found that the pathological effects observed on account of LoY in mice’s hearts could be negated by transforming growth factor β1-neutralising antibodies, suggesting a potential treatment for this medical condition in future.
  • Researchers performed an analysis of 29 primate sex chromosomes and suggested that in the last 80 million years, there has been a rapid evolution of the Y chromosome. This is exemplified by the fact that the human Y chromosome is about one-third as big as the X chromosome. So, many animal species, including humans, have a genuine fear of losing the Y chromosome in the distant future.

What lies ahead?

  • In fact, this has already happened in some species, such as rodents, which have naturally lost their Y chromosome. Such animals provide us with models to understand the process of sex-chromosome turnover and a means to repurpose another chromosome (i.e. one of the autosomes) into a sex chromosome.
  • Further, the evolutionary path leading to the appearance of modern humans provides clues as to what could be in store for the Y chromosome.
  • Genome sequences of the Neanderthals, an ancient relative of the modern human, harbour telltale signs of the replacement of the Y chromosome beginning from modern humans. This suggests that such replacement is not new to the human lineage, and that it is quite possible that the Y chromosome may have to relinquish its title of “master of maleness” to another chromosome in the times to come.

5 . Facts for Prelims

African Union   

  • The African Union (AU) is a continental body consisting of the 55 member states that make up the countries of the African Continent.
  • It was officially launched in 2002 as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity.
  • The AU was announced in the Sirte Declaration in Sirte, Libya
  • The bloc was founded on 26 May 2001 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and launched on 9 July 2002 in Durban, South Africa.
  • The most important decisions of the AU are made by the Assembly of the African Union, a semi-annual meeting of the heads of state and government of its member states.
  • The AU is guided by its vision of “An Integrated, Prosperous and Peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”
  • The largest city in the AU is Lagos, Nigeria, while the largest urban agglomeration is Cairo, Egypt. The African Union has more than 1.3 billion people and an area of around 30 million km2 (12 million sq mi) and includes world landmarks, such as the Sahara and the Nile.
  • The primary working languages are Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swahili. Within the African Union, there are official bodies, such as the Peace and Security Council and the Pan-African Parliament.

Teacher Attendance Monitoring System (TAMS)

  • Teacher Attendance Monitoring System is an android based application software to monitor the schedule, and the presence of teachers in real-time.
  • The purpose of TAMS is to provide all the schools, teachers, and school leaders with the necessary software and hardware tools in order to report daily employee attendance in a reliable and timely manner.
  • Specifications- This app uses a facial recognition system that reads the unique features of a face with an accuracy of about 70 per cent to identify the person and registering his or her attendance even in absence of internet connection.
  • It also allows mark attendance from anywhere for a field worker after geo-fencing is enabled in the nearby locations where the fieldworker is located.  
  • This app works around “geo-fencing which creates a virtual barrier over a certain geographical area that triggers a response every time someone enters or exit the virtual fence.

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