Binayak Dasgupta

Binayak reports on information security, privacy and scientific research in health and environment with explanatory pieces. He also edits the news sections of the newspaper.

Articles by Binayak Dasgupta

‘China’s Covid wave worse than estimated, peak of 36k deaths a day likely’

China re-opened its borders on January 8 after having abruptly ended its so-called Zero Covid policy of frequent testing, travel curbs and mass lockdowns the month before, prompted by unprecedented nationwide protests

A patient lies on a bed at the emergency department of a hospital, amid the Covid-19 outbreak in Shanghai, China, on Tuesday (REUTERS)
A patient lies on a bed at the emergency department of a hospital, amid the Covid-19 outbreak in Shanghai, China, on Tuesday (REUTERS)
Updated on Jan 17, 2023 10:06 PM IST

The year ahead: Glimpses into 2023

India, the world’s largest democracy and one of the world’s largest consumer markets, will likely begin working to pass new laws too, with lasting implications for companies such as Meta, Google and Twitter.

The crypto revolution faced a harsh reckoning. (Agencies/Representaitve use)
The crypto revolution faced a harsh reckoning. (Agencies/Representaitve use)
Published on Dec 31, 2022 06:14 PM IST
ByBy Binayak Dasgupta and Vishal Mathur

The year ahead: Can it be tech to the rescue?

Breakthroughs in nuclear fusion and CO2 conversion could revolutionise the power sector, but this could take a few decades. New approaches to food production are welcome. As the climate crisis intensifies, now amid the Russian war in Ukraine, this will be a crucial year for talks

The year 2022 was a period of record-breaking heat, precipitation and forest fires around the world (Getty Images/Representative use)
The year 2022 was a period of record-breaking heat, precipitation and forest fires around the world (Getty Images/Representative use)
Updated on Dec 31, 2022 06:01 PM IST

The Covid-19 shadow still looms

With the virus now sparing no one, Long Covid was a serious problem to deal with, which easily was the most important implication of how the pandemic had changed in its third year.

The Omicron variant was a version of Covid-19 that was so far removed from its predecessors that several assumptions about the virus became redundant in 2022. (AFP/Imaging by Malay Karmakar)
The Omicron variant was a version of Covid-19 that was so far removed from its predecessors that several assumptions about the virus became redundant in 2022. (AFP/Imaging by Malay Karmakar)
Updated on Dec 31, 2022 12:12 AM IST

A million infections and 5,000 deaths a day from Covid in China: Study

The new estimates were provided by London-based Airfinity, which predicted cases to continue to rise in China with two likely peaks, one in mid-January and the second in early March.

Workers unload a body from an ambulance for cremation at Gaobeidian Funeral Home in northern China’s Hebei province, on Thursday. China only counts deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in its official Covid-19 death toll, a health official said. (AP)
Workers unload a body from an ambulance for cremation at Gaobeidian Funeral Home in northern China’s Hebei province, on Thursday. China only counts deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in its official Covid-19 death toll, a health official said. (AP)
Updated on Dec 23, 2022 05:17 AM IST

A new chapter in ‘Twitter Files’

American journalist Bari Weiss posted a Twitter thread to allege the company, under its old management, created secret blacklists of users whose reach was restricted, the second instalment in what is now being called the Twitter Files.

HT Image
HT Image
Published on Dec 10, 2022 12:23 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Ransomware attackers say AIIMS ‘deadline’ has ended

The warning came from an email address known to authorities and is a part of the investigation, although HT could not independently verify whether the people replying from it were indeed behind the hack.

India’s national cybersecurity coordinator, Lt Gen (retired) Rajesh Pant said no ransom money had been demanded. (HT file)
India’s national cybersecurity coordinator, Lt Gen (retired) Rajesh Pant said no ransom money had been demanded. (HT file)
Updated on Dec 06, 2022 09:00 AM IST
By, New Delhi

‘China risks 1.3-2.1mn lives if it ends zero-Covid strategy’

Science analytics company Airfinity used trends from Hong Kong’s Omicron (BA.1) wave as a proxy for how an outbreak could play out in China, where protests have erupted across the country over the stifling Covid-19 containment strategy.

A health worker takes a swab sample from a woman to test for Covid-19 in the Jing’an district in Shanghai, China on Monday. (AFP)
A health worker takes a swab sample from a woman to test for Covid-19 in the Jing’an district in Shanghai, China on Monday. (AFP)
Updated on Nov 28, 2022 11:42 PM IST

Ransomware attack: Cyber terrorism probe as AIIMS services paralysed

According to a police officer, the preliminary investigation has hinted that the cyber attack may have been perpetrated from outside India.

The suspected ransomware attack has meant that the patients and doctors are unable to access records or test reports, even as experts flagged a potentially bigger problem if the hack also results in some of this data being accessed by the attacker. (PTI)
The suspected ransomware attack has meant that the patients and doctors are unable to access records or test reports, even as experts flagged a potentially bigger problem if the hack also results in some of this data being accessed by the attacker. (PTI)
Updated on Nov 25, 2022 02:43 AM IST

New data bill at odds with privacy ruling, say experts

The Union ministry for electronics and technology shared the Digital Data Protection Bill, 2022, on Friday for public comments and the proposal is likely to be brought to parliament in the upcoming winter session.

Among the aspects that experts pointed to was the number of issues left to be “prescribed” later via rules that the government will draw up, a process that would not need parliamentary approval. (Representational Pic)
Among the aspects that experts pointed to was the number of issues left to be “prescribed” later via rules that the government will draw up, a process that would not need parliamentary approval. (Representational Pic)
Updated on Nov 19, 2022 05:54 AM IST
ByDeeksha Bhardwaj and Binayak Dasgupta, New Delhi

Data bill eases transfer rules, raises penalties

The Centre on Friday unveiled the Digital Data Protection Bill for public consultation, having redrawn a long-delayed law that will provide the legal framework for the fundamental right to privacy of Indian citizens with major implications for tech companies and digital businesses.

Representational image(Shutterstock)
Representational image(Shutterstock)
Updated on Nov 19, 2022 05:58 AM IST
ByDeeksha Bhardwaj and Binayak Dasgupta, New Delhi

Pollution raises risk of childhood stunting, leading to lifelong impact: Study

New Delhi: Children in parts of India with high air pollution are more likely to be stunted or severely stunted, according to a study that for the first time looks at how dirty air affects the development of children

HT Image
HT Image
Updated on Nov 04, 2022 02:14 PM IST

Winter Covid outbreak on the cards? Worry over converging virus strains

A new set of Sars-CoV-2 variants, all offshoots of the Omicron classification of the virus, appear to be picking up the same sort of genetic traits after following different evolutionary journeys, prompting concern among experts that it could portend the arrival of a “fitter” version that might lead to a spurt in cases in coming months.

Convergent evolution is a situation in which a virus evolves in a manner depending on immunity in the population it infects (REUTERS)
Convergent evolution is a situation in which a virus evolves in a manner depending on immunity in the population it infects (REUTERS)
Published on Oct 07, 2022 11:30 PM IST
By, New Delhi

Legal protections for Big Tech need review

While Joe Biden’s intent is positive, it remains devoid of specifics of how any of this will happen, especially given the partisan divide in American politics on the issue

Network effects (you are more likely to be on a platform that your friends and family are on) and calculated corporate deal-making (most notably, Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp) have given rise to monopolies. A handful of services have now become today’s new town square. (Getty Images)
Network effects (you are more likely to be on a platform that your friends and family are on) and calculated corporate deal-making (most notably, Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp) have given rise to monopolies. A handful of services have now become today’s new town square. (Getty Images)
Updated on Sep 21, 2022 08:02 PM IST

Behind the troll storm over catch spilled against Pak

Indian cricketer Arshdeep Singh was the target of vicious online trolling after his side lost to Pakistan in the Asia Cup game on Sunday night, with an anonymous user, possibly based in Pakistan, vandalising his Wikipedia page to claim he was linked to the separatist Khalistani movement.

India's Arshdeep Singh, right, listens to captain Rohit Sharma before bowling his next delivery during the T20 cricket match of Asia Cup between India and Pakistan, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP)
India's Arshdeep Singh, right, listens to captain Rohit Sharma before bowling his next delivery during the T20 cricket match of Asia Cup between India and Pakistan, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP)
Updated on Sep 06, 2022 10:28 AM IST
ByBinayak Dasgupta and Deeksha Bhardwaj, New Delhi

Arshdeep Singh’s Wikipedia page vandalised to show Khalistan link, fixed later

Reports indicate that the crowd-sourced digital encyclopaedia may be asked to explain why these changes were done by the government of India

According to the edit history of Singh’s Wikipedia page, an unregistered user replaced the words “India” with “Khalistan” at several locations on the profile at 12:28am India Standard Time (IST). (AFP Photo)
According to the edit history of Singh’s Wikipedia page, an unregistered user replaced the words “India” with “Khalistan” at several locations on the profile at 12:28am India Standard Time (IST). (AFP Photo)
Updated on Sep 05, 2022 01:01 PM IST

Long Covid real, can last from 90 to 150 days: Study

Long Covid, a loosely defined set of conditions that people report after having caught Covid-19, is yet to be properly understood, either for the biology involved or its estimated prevalence.

People wearing protective masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk along a pedestrian crossing Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, in Tokyo.(AP)
People wearing protective masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk along a pedestrian crossing Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, in Tokyo.(AP)
Updated on Aug 05, 2022 12:07 PM IST

AlphaFold: AI tool predicts structures for nearly all-known proteins

Proteins are commonly referred as the building blocks of life, made up on some combination of amino acids. It is easy to identify a protein by its constituent amino acid, but this is just one-dimensional information

A lab worker measures the concentration of proteins while working on vaccine and protein research in the Veesler Lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington (For representational purpose only). (AFP)
A lab worker measures the concentration of proteins while working on vaccine and protein research in the Veesler Lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington (For representational purpose only). (AFP)
Updated on Jul 31, 2022 11:46 PM IST

India plans action | Should Big Tech pay for news?

Over the last five years, several nations and large blocs, such as the European Union and Australia , have backed this by statute, forcing internet giants to begin paying for content they use or enter into agreements with news publishers.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)
Updated on Jul 28, 2022 09:58 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Why the Omicron sub-variant BA.2.75 is being monitored

World Health Organization officials confirmed on Wednesday that a new sub-lineage of the Omicron variant — classified as the BA.2.75 — appears to be growing in India, where it was first found.

Gurugram, India - July 7, 2022: A health worker inoculates a person with a dose of Covid-19 vaccine at an Urban Primary Health Center (UPHC) polyclinic in Sector 31, in Gurugram, India, on Thursday, July 7, 2022. (Photo by Vipin Kumar/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
Gurugram, India - July 7, 2022: A health worker inoculates a person with a dose of Covid-19 vaccine at an Urban Primary Health Center (UPHC) polyclinic in Sector 31, in Gurugram, India, on Thursday, July 7, 2022. (Photo by Vipin Kumar/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
Updated on Jul 08, 2022 03:33 PM IST
By, New Delhi

In Perspective | AI and the red herring of chasing sentience

Google engineer Lemoine’s contention is that we have, and a particular portion of his conversation with LaMDA best demonstrates why he thinks so

Neural networks are at the heart of deep learning programmes and in recent years, these have taken some truly remarkable strides, leading to the rise of programmes that can solve a previously insurmountable biological challenge of protein folding predictions, create arguably the best Go player in the world, and make almost indistinguishable deepfake videos. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Neural networks are at the heart of deep learning programmes and in recent years, these have taken some truly remarkable strides, leading to the rise of programmes that can solve a previously insurmountable biological challenge of protein folding predictions, create arguably the best Go player in the world, and make almost indistinguishable deepfake videos. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Updated on Jun 17, 2022 05:56 PM IST

Understanding Big Tech’s ad dominance and the latest bid to break it up

The dominance in the entire ecosystem, paired with the dominance of their products (Google Search, Alphabet’s YouTube, Meta’s Instagram, etc.) in their respective domains make for a potent recipe that leads to monopolistic outcomes

Representational image. (HT File Photo)
Representational image. (HT File Photo)
Published on May 24, 2022 01:53 PM IST

True Covid toll 14.9mn,India count 4.7mn: WHO

At least 4

HT Image
HT Image
Updated on May 06, 2022 04:39 PM IST
ByJamie Mullick and Binayak Dasgupta, New Delhi

The virus before Covid-19 changed the world forever

The global legacy of the Sars outbreak 19 years ago has been mirrored in what India has witnessed over the last two years.

People buy face masks during the Sars outbreak in 2003. (HT ARCHIVE)
People buy face masks during the Sars outbreak in 2003. (HT ARCHIVE)
Updated on Apr 30, 2022 06:20 AM IST

Chew on this study: Dogs don’t stick to breed stereotypes!

The researchers, who started the project to study compulsive behaviour in dogs eight years ago, suggested that dogs don’t stick to some of the starkest of stereotypes attributed to various breeds

Traits such as aggression and excitability of dogs did not seem to be dependent on breed, the study (REUTERS)
Traits such as aggression and excitability of dogs did not seem to be dependent on breed, the study (REUTERS)
Updated on Apr 29, 2022 12:03 PM IST
By, New Delhi:

Group of 60 nations back US push for an ‘open’ internet

The Declaration for the Future of the Internet was signed by 60 partners, according to officials in the US, which headed the effort, counting European Union nations, Australia, New Zealand and Japan as partners

Fahad Shah (right), editor-in-chief of Kashmir Walla, works on his computer inside the newsroom at his office in Srinagar. (AP/FILE)
Fahad Shah (right), editor-in-chief of Kashmir Walla, works on his computer inside the newsroom at his office in Srinagar. (AP/FILE)
Updated on Apr 29, 2022 12:09 PM IST
ByBinayak Dasgupta and Prashant Jha

In Perspective | Twitter under Musk: Absolute free speech won’t work

The libertarian idea of speech online today has weaknesses: Not all speech is equal, and not all communities suffer equally when free speech is abused.

How Musk works on addressing perceptions about free speech on Twitter will be crucial because it is one thing to engineer for matter and material, it is completely another to build for thought. (Reuters)
How Musk works on addressing perceptions about free speech on Twitter will be crucial because it is one thing to engineer for matter and material, it is completely another to build for thought. (Reuters)
Published on Apr 26, 2022 07:27 PM IST

How concerning is Omicron offshoot?

Experts say that panic over these detections may be premature, and while there are Omicron variant sub-lineages with growth advantage over their predecessor, this is largely expected and represents a typical evolutionary trajectory.

There are two other Omicron family variants, BA.4 and BA.5, which seem to be causing most new cases in parts of South Africa.(Representational Image/REUTERS)
There are two other Omicron family variants, BA.4 and BA.5, which seem to be causing most new cases in parts of South Africa.(Representational Image/REUTERS)
Updated on Apr 22, 2022 06:41 AM IST

Senior UK officials, PMO hacked using Pegasus: New report

Canada-based Citizen Labs, which first uncovered the widespread deployment of Pegasus in 2018, said in its report that “multiple suspected instances” of the spyware’s infection were found within official UK networks in 2020 and 2021.

The NSO Group company logo is displayed on a wall of a building next to one of their branches in the southern Israeli Arava valley near Sapir community centre.(AFP)
The NSO Group company logo is displayed on a wall of a building next to one of their branches in the southern Israeli Arava valley near Sapir community centre.(AFP)
Updated on Apr 19, 2022 12:51 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Chinese hackers targeted 7 Indian power hubs, govt says ops failed

The incident is the latest in a string of cyber espionage attributed to groups based in China, with past attacks targeting critical infrastructure such as power plants

Chinese hackers targeted 7 Indian power hubs, govt says ops failed
Chinese hackers targeted 7 Indian power hubs, govt says ops failed
Updated on Apr 08, 2022 06:43 AM IST
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