SC to ICAI: Don't be rigid, show some concern for students
The Supreme Court on Monday told the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) to be flexible and consider allowing students to opt out of the exams amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
 
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari, and Sanjiv Khanna took up the matter through videoconference and told ICAI during the hearing: "Don't be rigid, be flexible. Show some concern for the students." The ICAI counsel sought time to issue fresh guidelines in connection with the current cycle of the CA exams slated this year. 
 
The bench noted that the option to change examination centres should be made available to students/candidates to help avoid travelling, and that things cannot be rigid as the coronavirus situation in India is still evolving.
 
The ICAI counsel contended that it has 567 test centres that are properly sanitised, and that it cannot change the exam centres now. 
 
In response, the bench said that the option to change the test centre should be available in case a particular area becomes a containment zone. "This option should be kept open till the last week as the situation is not static. It is dynamic," noted the bench. 
 
The ICAI counsel argued that a standard operating procedure is in place, and the authorities will shift the exam centre in case there is a containment zone.
 
The bench asked ICAI that if a candidate in a containment zone is forced to appear in an exam only in November, could it be counted as appearance in July. 
 
The ICAI counsel said that the concerns of the petitioner are "unfounded" in connection with the opt-out option and the ICAI was bound by the Chartered Accountants Act.
 
The ICAI counsel also submitted that if a candidate sends an email saying he/she is unable to sit in the exam due to Covid-19, it will not be questioned. "It is a group of 4-4. They can choose to appear at a later date if they are Covid-19 affected," the ICAI counsel maintained. 
 
ICAI general secretary Rakesh Sehgal submitted before the top court that they will permit an "opt-out" to all candidates wherever the situation has deteriorated, and the only difficulty is in the change of exam centres.
 
The bench said that whatever notification ICAI issues must clarify about the opt-out option. "You are a professional body. Must take care of your candidates. There could be a case where one candidate is appearing in two sets of papers," said the bench.
 
The bench then asked ICAI to issue fresh guidelines by incorporating the suggestions made and posted the matter for further hearing on July 2. 
 
"The ICAI counsel may take instructions and file the modified draft notification setting out the changes," said the top court.
 
The India Wide Parents Association had filed a PIL in the Supreme Court to seek quashing of a ICAI notification in order to allow CA aspirants to opt out of the exams to be held this year.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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    Google Sued in US over Claims of Illegal Location Tracking
    In a lawsuit filed against Google, the US state of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has alleged that the search engine giant violated privacy of Android users by tracking their location without their proper consent, The Washington Post reported.
     
    For certain features, like weather and Chrome browser, Google allowed location tracking to run in the background despite users switching off app-specific location tracking, the suit alleged.
     
    "At some point, people or companies that have a lot of money think they can do whatever the hell they want to do, and feel like they are above the law," Mr Brnovich was quoted as saying by The Post in an interview reported on Wednesday.
     
    "I wanted Google to get the message that Arizona has a state consumer fraud act. They may be the most innovative company in the world, but that doesn't mean they're above the law."
     
    The Arizona Attorney General wants Google to pay back the residents profits the company might have earned from monetizing their data.
     
    "The Attorney General and the contingency fee lawyers filing this lawsuit appear to have mischaracterized our services," a Google spokesperson told The Verge.
     
    "We have always built privacy features into our products and provided robust controls for location data. We look forward to setting the record straight," the spokesperson added.
     
    Technology giants, including Google, have faced allegations of user privacy violations on many occasions, prompting politicians in the US to talk of stricter regulations and even breaking up 'Big Tech'.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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    Aarogya Setu Technology, User Privacy under Criticism; MIT Cuts the App's Rating to Lowest Level
    The Aarogya Setu app, which was being enforced by Indian authorities until recently, is facing tough scrutiny and falling short. First, it was revealed that the exposure notifications system (or contact tracing technology) developed by two giants, Apple and Google, cannot be used by Aarogya Setu due to differences over location tracking. Now, researchers at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have downgraded Aarogya Setu's rating to just 1 on a scale of 5 over the app's failure to minimise data collection, says a report by the Times of India
     
    According to the description provided by Aarogya Setu on Google play store, "the app tracks, through a Bluetooth and GPS generated social graph, your interaction with someone who could have tested COVID-19 positive." 
     
    On the other hand, the exposure notifications system developed by Apple and Google uses only Bluetooth for contact tracing. This contact tracing application program interface (API) shared by Apple and Google have rules that require user consent and prohibits location tracking.  
     
    However, Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, has raised questions over whether Bluetooth-based contact tracing technology can be adopted on a broad and meaningful scale worldwide. In an interaction with MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory director Daniela Rus, Mr Smith expressed scepticism about this technology being adopted on a meaningful scale.
     
    "Not everyone is going to walk around with an app on their phone. I think we should recognise that it is a tool, and not a panacea," Mr Smith was quoted as saying in the virtual discussion.
     
    Aarogya Setu requires the user to switch on her Bluetooth and GPS and keep location sharing always ‘on’. "You will be alerted if someone you have come in close proximity of, even unknowingly, tests COVID-19 positive. The app alerts are accompanied by instructions on how to self-isolate and what to do in case you develop symptoms that may need help and support."
     
     
    The exposure notifications system developed by Apple and Google relies only on Bluetooth. "Our exposure notifications technology is available to public health agencies on both iOS and Android. What we have built is not an app — rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people install," said Apple and Google.
     
    In this API, each user gets to decide whether or not to opt-in to exposure notifications and the system does not collect or use location from the device.
     
    "If a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is up to them whether or not to report that in the public health app. User adoption is key to success and we believe that these strong privacy protections are also the best way to encourage use of these apps," the companies have said.
     
    According to Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, the exposure notification API they have created with Google is available to help public health agencies.
     
    While both Apple and Google have launched the API that uses Bluetooth, Microsoft has a different view on the technology. 
     
    Some international experts have also raised questions on the use of Bluetooth technology in tracing apps. According to Jason Bay, the product lead for TraceTogether, the world’s first nationwide Bluetooth contact tracing system, false positives and false negatives have real-life (and death) consequences as there are lives at stake. 
     
    "If you ask me whether any Bluetooth contact tracing system deployed or under development, anywhere in the world, is ready to replace manual contact tracing, I will say without qualification that the answer is, No. Not now and, even with the benefit of artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML) and — God forbid — blockchain?? (throw whatever buzzword you want), not for the foreseeable future," he says in a blog post. 
     
    Aarogya Setu claims to use both Bluetooth and GPS for contact tracings. For this, the user needs to keep both Bluetooth and GPS on her mobile handset in always on position. This is possible on Android-run mobile phones. But Apple iPhones have their own protocol, especially on allowing an app to use certain features unconditionally. 
     
    For example, if an app that uses Bluetooth needs to be running in foreground all the time. Even developers of TraceTogether app that supports Singapore’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through community-driven contact tracing, have pointed out this issue. 
     
    Responding to a query, the developer team of TraceTogether says, "Unfortunately, on iOS, the TraceTogether app works best in the foreground, so that is what we recommend for better results."
     
    The TraceTogether team also shared links to Apple developer documents . On foreground only apps, the document says, "As with most iOS apps, unless you request permission to perform specific background tasks, your app transitions to the suspended state shortly after entering the background state.
     
    "While in the suspended state, your app is unable to perform Bluetooth-related tasks, nor is it aware of any Bluetooth-related events until it resumes to the foreground."
     
    Coming back to Aarogya Setu contact tracing, the app seeks several permissions including GPS and network-based precise location. It also needs the user to keep location sharing in 'always on' mode. This violates privacy of the user and expose her location details to others. 
     
     
    MIT in its technology review says, "Many countries are developing limited services that use Bluetooth or GPS to give 'exposure notifications' to people who have interacted with someone found to have COVID-19. India’s app, though, is a massive all-in-one undertaking that far exceeds what most other countries are building. It tracks Bluetooth contact events and location—as many other apps do—but also gives each user a color-coded badge showing infection risk. And on top of this, Aarogya Setu (which means “a bridge to health” in Hindi) also offers access to telemedicine, an e-pharmacy, and diagnostic services. It’s whitelisted by all Indian telecom companies, so using it does not count against mobile data limits."
     
    "What the app lacks also sets it apart. India has no national data privacy law, and it’s not clear who has access to data from the app and in what situations.
     
    "There are no strong, transparent policy or design limitations on accessing or using the data at this point. The list of developers, largely made up of private-sector volunteers, is not entirely public," the review says.
     
    The massive data collection without any privacy concern is what seems to have made MIT to downgrade its rating to 1 out of 5 for Aarogya Setu app. 
     
    "It is a well-practiced tactic in India, where 'voluntary mandatory' technology has a history of being used as a gatekeeper to certain important rights," the MIT technology review sums it up.
     
    The recent guidelines released by India's ministry of home affairs (MHA) for the Lockdown 4 had removed the word 'mandatory' for Aarogya Setu app.
     
    However, in between other ministries like the civil aviation and Indian Railways are trying to enforce the app on travellers. 
     
    Hope all these authorities are listening to technical experts and follow an advice given by Bruce Schneier, a privacy expert and fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. He says, "The idea that contact tracing can be done with an app, and not human health professionals, is just plain dumb."
     
     
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