Friday, April 29, 2016

Tinker, Juggler, Mathematician Guy: Claude Shannon Doodled by Google

Google's doodles, just like its profound search box, have been a constant source of rich and curious information for quite some time. And they are already celebrated much in the media.

Still, I found the most recent one, on a guy called Claude Shannon, quite interesting not only to note but to write a blog post as well. And while the doodles have of late been slipping in quality and creativity, this one seems to have put the shine back: what with a cute cartoon of Claude juggling zeroes and ones bang in the middle of the letters that make up Google, dissecting it into GOO and GLE.

I also felt embarrassed, nay ashamed, that I had to refer to the pioneer of information theory and unarguably a great mathematical genius, as "a guy called..." in the above para. headlined its piece on Shannon as The Juggling Unicyclist Who Pedaled Us Into the Digital Age.

Now, that's indeed quite a fitting and interestingly written tribute!

Let's look at how some of the other media sites and scientific portals describe him in their articles (post- as well as pre-doodle celebrating his birth centenary):

Without Shannon's information theory there would have been no internet (The Guardian)

Claude Shannon: Tinkerer, Prankster, and Father of Information Theory (IEEE Spectrum)

Claude Shannon: Reluctant Father of the Digital Age (MIT Technology Review)

Celebration time for Gaylord's Shannon, who 'changed the course of human history' (

Keep doodling, Google!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Big Data Tech behind Times Internet’s Native Ad Play - Colombia

Not many people may know it, but one of the largest publishers in India, The Times of India Group, is also home to one of the largest publisher-owned ad network platforms in APAC. The Group’s digital venture, Times Internet Ltd (TIL), runs one of the most complex and sophisticated ad serving operations, in addition to hosting the editorial content for multiple sites (internal as well as partnerships).

Around a year back, TIL had launched its own native ad platform, called Colombia. (Native ads are personalized ads that are shown to the web users based on their past browsing history, interests, etc., and are usually text ads as opposed to display/banner ads.)

Given the growing global trend of more and more brands putting their money on native ads, platforms such as Colombia are gaining increasing significance in the media world. The platform ensures similar user experience across mobile and web.

I recently spoke to Sumit Malhotra, Head – IT, TIL, to know more about how they developed Colombia, the technology behind the platform and challenges associated with what Sumit calls a “big data recommendation system.”

It would be pertinent to note in this context how the TIL ad network has grown in the past two years, which is nothing short of exponential—from serving around 40 million ad impressions per day in last June to a peak of 500 million impressions/day this month.

Besides serving ads from its own marquee properties, TIL has tie-ups with third party ad networks like Taboola and many others. So the ad inventory that is served through Colombia comes from a number of sources, all of which need to be integrated tightly with the TIL platform for serving to the user—who could be sitting and surfing in any part of the world. 

The key, says Malhotra, is to provide a consistent experience to the audience with as low latency as possible (often, the native ads are served in 100 to 150 milliseconds but, in any case, the threshold has to be kept below 500 ms).

“Otherwise, the user will have either scrolled down the page or moved on to another site (without seeing or clicking on the ad),” he says.

The biggest challenge for any ad network today is to deliver an ad at a low latency. To do so, it is important that calculations and permutations related to which ad is to be served to which user profile are based on the recommendation of the big data system—Colombia in TIL’s case—which is run in-memory rather than on disk.

Talking about the challenges, Malhotra says, “Another challenge is that suppose a user is coming from the US and hitting our servers in India, so the travel time for a data packet is quite high; we need to take it closer to the audience. And since every ad is personalized, that is a big challenge.”

Part of the low-latency challenge is solved by having multiple ad server clusters in different geographic regions of the world. TIL has its servers hosted in different geographies and uses a mix of public cloud options and its own data centers. “This helps us serve ad requests within specific regions,” he says.

Another very notable and significant thing is that TIL has custom-built its own big data engine using open source tools and technologies—all done in-house by its 100-plus technology development team.
It took slightly over a year to build Colombia and then another 9 to 12 months to roll it out fully across the board for all online properties.

“Colombia was launched about eight months to a year back. And given that the infrastructure is huge, we had to roll it out to all the properties, 40 different brands across Times Internet. So the deployment also took time, as the technology needed to be integrated with the publishers as well. And after rolling out, you understand the issues and then scale it up slowly,” says Malhotra. Now it is fully deployed not only across all TIL properties but with the third parties as well.

The key benefit is derived from “the complex algorithms that help us run highly targeted campaigns,” he says.

Native ad platforms are one of the primary reasons why today’s users get the sense that if they go to particular kinds of sites (sport, technology, housing, etc.), the ads that accompany on the sites that they visit next are mostly related to the content they had just viewed.

“Given that it’s a personalized ad network, we need to do in-memory data recommendations. For maintaining low latency, we cannot afford to do any calculations on data that goes to the disk, all calculations have to be done in-memory,” says Malhotra.

Malhotra says that most components of big data analytics systems today run on bare metal servers rather than virtualized ones, as the virtualization adds another layer to the process and increases the latency. With the scale and complexity that TIL operates in, he says, “we cannot survive any virtualization overhead.”

On being asked why TIL didn’t go for a branded big data analytics platform (from known large vendors), he had this to say: “Because those vendors cannot give you that kind of personalization in-memory at this rate and at this kind of a size/scale. So for example, if we are using, say, 300 servers for our open source solution, it would require 600 or more servers to do the same things on vendor products.”

Also, Malhotra is of the opinion that if one uses a vendor product, one gets locked on to it and it also takes away the flexibility.

So it looks like TIL is not going to take the outsourcing route in the near future.

To keep its ad network in good health, TIL also has to do a lot of monitoring of how the ads are being served across different geographies. One, to check if a consistent experience is being delivered to the user; and two, whether a campaign is not surreptitiously trying to deliver some malware to the end user’s device (in which case the campaign is stopped and/or blocked.)

For this, TIL uses a mix of in-house resources as well as tools from third-party providers.

The challenge now is that, sometimes, the traffic at multiple sites can peak at the same time, which requires a different kind of scalability.

(Note: This blog post first appeared on

Sunday, March 20, 2016

My Experiments with Sudarshan Kriya, Pranayama and Meditation

I have been meaning to write this post for some time but kept myself in check. After my previous, broader post on yoga, I became increasingly aware of the complexities involved in explaining things to people who come from different backgrounds and may have their own interpretations, prior experiences, prejudices, misinformation or vested interests about certain things. (Just as I may have about certain other things myself :)

Healthcare is big business in the US (running into hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars) and India seems to be headed inexorably onto the path of creating its own healthcare chimera in the image of the (mostly broken) US healthcare system. A system that is in cahoots with Big Pharma, which in turn is in bed with Big Hospital, which in turn is fueled by Big Insurance—all ultimately burdening the tax-paying middle class, most of whom are finding it difficult to keep up with high premiums, costs of drugs, diagnostics and doctors’ fees.

But as I saw the flames of greed engulf a growing nation in its laboratory of money-making, as I saw Indian intellectuals turning their back on or even cocking a snook at the traditional systems of health, wisdom and well-being such as yoga, pranayama and Ayurveda (ironically, the West is increasingly opening its arms to all of these)—and as I completed over two years of regular daily practice of pranayama + meditation—I could no longer stop myself from putting pen to paper, to use the idiom.

The idea of this post, let me state upfront, is not to boast of my own prowess or anything (I have barely scratched the surface of what the accomplished masters such as Swami Sivananda, BKS Iyengar or T Krishnamacharya achieved through decades and decades of unwavering practice). Nor is the intent to pull down other systems of mind-body control, healing or working out (such as running, gymming, tai chi, Pilates and the like). Further, while I have pointed to the Hindu roots of yoga in my previous post, the intention here is not to promote any religion but just to share my own personal experience and how it helped me heal—with nearly 80% success (and counting)—my peculiar condition and general ill-health. (More on that in a short while.)

Furthermore, in the backdrop of the very recent occurrence of the World Culture Festival organized by the Art of Living and the criticism (as well as accolades) it has drawn from various quarters (since what follows mentions Sudarshan Kriya, a breathing technique patented by AOL)—let me state that while I promote the Kriya, I usually do not subscribe to the pressure tactics often employed by AOL volunteers to enroll for more and more courses all the time.

And I have my own set of criticisms for its very intriguing founder, Sri Ravi Shankar. For instance, if I got a chance to meet him in person, I would ask him, “Guruji, why did you have to patent the Kriya, which is actually a recipe based on ancient breathing routines otherwise known to millions of people? Why is the Kriya not taught to the poor for free? (If it is, where?) And, why, oh why, did you or your devotees had to sell commercial goodies like Sri Sri bhujiya at the WCF venue?” (bhujiya is a kind of Indian snack that would hardly be considered healthy by AOL elders or Ayurveda practitioners.) Besides the health aspect, there’s the commercialization angle too: Why do modern day babas and gurus need their own brands and businesses?
The idea of this post is primarily to share what I did and how I benefited from the breathing regimen. Sudarshan Kriya, of course, is not my first introduction to pranayama or breath-control (see the related post, Beyond Asana: Yoga…), but it has helped me connect with my own self each day in 30 to 40 minutes of quiet, quality time. And along the way, open up a whole new path to introspection, self-discovery and the healing mechanisms that reside within our bodies and hence within easy reach of every individual.

I started doing Kriya over two years back and, gradually, appended my own rituals of meditation to the recipe prescribed in the AOL course I undertook (in earlier  times, it was called the Basic Course and later renamed to Happiness Course). But the additions I made to my routine are recent in nature and I made them almost spontaneously, without consulting any AOL teacher. Nevertheless, I now have my own concoction (that I do not intend to patent or sell!) of sitting down quietly each morning, taking deep breaths and meditating for a while.

I am thankful to AOL for being instrumental in helping me restart a healthy journey, yet I do not bow to any living personality with complete trust in their virtues or saintliness. It has been my firm belief for quite some time that we must try to be our own guru in these weird, Kalyugi times when real gurus are almost impossible to find. (See my related post, Sex and the Guru.)

So, how did I happen to do the AOL course and restart on a journey that I left unfinished while at school? (As a student, I used to do yoga and participate in several group yoga competitions as well but left practicing when I started on a professional career through a curious animal called “job” :)

Here it goes…

Circa 2010: I was returning home in my car after a busy day at work. Suddenly, I felt as if a particularly vengeful mosquito bit me in the leg and bit with all its might. I instinctively scratched the “bitten” part of my leg—only to find a succession of such piercing mosquito bites on my hands and torso as well. I struggled with keeping the car steering steady as I tried to swat the skeeters before they could suck a not-so-inconsequential amount of blood from my body.

The above episode repeated itself several times with me in the next few months—in the car, in office, at home, and while on the bed, tossing and trying to sleep. Quite often, these were not your typical mosquito bites, with patches of rashes and itching: for me, it was more like pain mixed with itchiness and even a little bit of tickling. Unable to find any mosquitoes or other insects around when this happened, I used to wonder what exactly was happening and why.

For the first few months, this was little more than an inconvenience. I just ignored it. But then, gradually, it became more frequent and bothersome (the frequency of its occurrence went up from, say, once or twice a month to half a dozen times). Also, I had more and more trouble sleeping at night and, besides the itching component, there were sharp needle-like jabs, especially in the extremities of my fingers and toes.

Roughly one-and-a-half years passed like this.

Then, sometime in 2012, the sole of my right foot caught some allergic infection or something. The skin near the toes started to peel off and there was intense itching as well. I consulted a dermatologist, who suggested getting a blood test done, and also asked me to check if I had diabetes. When I took the test results to a doctor (a reputed M.D. degree holder), he told me that while I was not diabetic, I was “close to being one.”

Now, this doctor did advise me to control my diet and so on, but he said there was nothing much to worry about. I think I must have been alarmed on my own in those days, for I quit taking sugar or sugary foods after that. (I had almost forgotten about my foot allergy and just applied the ointment that the dermatologist had prescribed; in about two weeks or so, the foot healed.)

During those days when I stopped my sugar intake (of course, what I mean is intake of any artificial or added sugar), I happened to notice that the tickling-itching-needling thingy did not occur even once. Why was that so? Upon going over my eating habits, I realized that refined/added sugar was the only thing I had completely eliminated from my diet. But I couldn’t have been too sure that sugar was the cause of all that itching and mosquito-hunting. (In those days, it so happened that my bed mattress got infested with bugs and I was almost convinced that it was those rascally bugs that attacked me at night and immediately scampered away when I switched on the light or hit myself in different parts, wherever the itching took my hand!)

Anyway, to test out the “culpability” of sugar, what I did was alternated between having refined-sugar-as-usual days and no-sugar-at-all days. Around one month or so into this experiment and lo and behold! The culprit causing misery to me was sugar indeed! The tickling-itching-needling returned exactly on the days when I had sugar (in tea, biscuits, cola, sweets, etc.)

I also did some frantic searching of my condition and its symptoms on the web. The two terms that I came across that I think most closely resembled or described what I was going through: “sugar intolerance” and “peripheral neuropathy”. If anything, I was extremely intolerant of sugar! The advice offered on many of those medical/health sites included avoiding or going low on the “substance” causing that needling/itching—in my case, the sugar.

So I stopped taking refined sugar; I only took it once in a while to check whether it continued to affect me or could it be that the situation would improve or change on its own. Each time, I met with 100% results: “No sugar for you, Sanjay!” It was like this voice echoed in my mind along with the return of the symptoms on “sugar days”. With the passing of time, the itching/needling impact of sugar escalated: it took only 20 to 30 minutes for the symptoms to show up. (In fact, some of my friends who knew my condition joked with me that I could be useful to scientists in accurately testing whether an edible substance had refined sugar in it or not! Curiously, sweeteners like honey or jaggery did not have an ill-effect on me.)

Once, on the advice of my well-wishers, I decided to see a good endocrinologist and seek his help. So I went to one of the most reputed and well-equipped hospitals in Delhi and consulted its esteemed endocrinologist. When I came out of his room, I had a largish sheet of his prescription pad in my hand—on which he had scribbled not one, not two, not three but 5-6 different kinds of diagnostic tests, in addition to some tablets and dietary advice.

I recalled the doctor’s clinical lack of interest or empathy with my condition, mixed it with the greedy haste he had displayed in putting down all kinds of expensive tests, and considered it in my mind together with the amount of wasted effort and money I would need to shell out, if I were to go along with his prescribed course of action.

I quickly and quietly came back home.

Some more time passed.

August, 2013: I had started going on morning walks to a park nearby for the past few weeks. One day, as I was making my way back to the gate of the park, I noticed a couple of my friends who were promoting the six-day basic course of AOL alongside the organization’s banner under a tree. Before I could think whether to avoid crossing their path, one of them caught hold of my arm and started talking about the course animatedly.

I must have shown some interest, for the same day, two of them visited my home and sweet-talked not just me but my wife as well to begin the AOL course that was to start on the 13th of August.

In hindsight, I will always remain thankful to both of them, not necessarily for introducing AOL to me (of which I was aware) but of becoming the nimitta (a Hindi word that roughly translates to “something that is instrumental in something bigger or more important”) for getting me restarted on a journey of self-discovery, inner healing and spirituality.

Given that Sudarshan Kriya is patented and I, just like millions others, signed a non-disclosure clause that prohibits teaching it to others (only approved AOL teachers can do so), I would not divulge all the details. But if you really ask me, it is quite simple and comprises three major steps: first is a series of specialized breathing in certain postures (the type of breathing is called ujjayi breath); then bhastrika and finally the (inner) chanting of the mantra “Soham” in a certain series of rhythms.

Coming back to my personal experience, while the course began on August 13, the Kriya itself was taught the next day, when all the participants performed it under the tutelage of an AOL-approved teacher (in my case, Kavitaji, whose soft voice and wise words continue to echo in my ears till date).

The first-time experience of doing Sudarshan Kriya had an effect on me that thousands of others have described in a similar fashion: it was like an inner cleansing. One felt lighter, better, happier than before. Done in a soothing, calm environment, the breathing exercises resulted in much improved circulation of blood all through your body, and the pleasantness in the mind was accentuated by chanting of the mantra (the chants were actually emanating from Sri Sri’s voice captured and played on a tape-recorder kept nearby; on our part, we were required to simply say “Soham” internally).

We were told beforehand that a lot of people cry immediately after the Kriya, especially on the very first occasion—and there were many who did cry that day too. But it was all spontaneous, uninhibited, open crying, as if to wash away the barrage of repressed thoughts and feelings. I could not see any shame in that crying, only an admission of our humanness and the necessity of giving vent to human emotions once in a while.

As the AOL course came to an end, there was a sense of bonding and commonality among the participants, one that rested on the understanding that most of the things we crave in life are short-lived, even nonsensical. And that anyone can be happy, should be happy, if a certain positive attitude to life in general and the people around one in particular could be maintained.

After the course, there were a few occasions on which I participated in what AOL calls “Samoohik Kriya” (Kriya done together). And several times, we were told about the advanced, higher or even more beneficial courses from AOL—but I have stuck to the basic one thus far, trying to implement some of the noble sutras in my daily life (the sutras were prescribed during the course and basically were ethical/moral tenets on the lines of being non-judgmental of others and leading a do-gooder life).

(Craving, even if it is for more and more AOL courses, is not a good thing I believe :)

But this post is not entirely about AOL and how it operates, so let me move on with the rest of my experiments with the Kriya and pranayama.

As I advanced in my own practice of Sudarshan Kriya, I noticed that my inner confidence, calm and strength grew as well. In my morning sessions, after the Kriya came to an end, I began to sit a while longer, meditating.

Now, meditation is a “loaded word,” as one of my friends put it recently. And there is already enough confusion about it amongst lay persons and practitioners of this mystic art alike. I, too, do not claim to be an expert in meditation. Yet, I sincerely believe that in over two years of regular practice supplemented by reading of literature on meditation, I have come to a stage where maybe I can share a few things that can be of use and value to others. And that’s all I can offer at this point in time—my journey still continues…

Meditation is a kind of unravelling the inner beauty of our being. As I have noted in my book Strings of the Soul, “Meditation takes you away from the torrent of oppressive thoughts into the inexplicable joy of stillness.”

It is my belief and experience that just as there is no single way to discovering the Truth, there are multiple ways in which one can meditate. The commonly shown picture, in which a person is shown sitting cross-legged in a relaxed position, hands resting on the knees and eyes closed, is one way to meditate—but so is the way in which a person is just walking quietly in the woods, admiring the birds and the beasts and other creatures or phenomena of nature.

And then there is the mindfulness meditation that Buddha taught, in which we shine the wisdom of our mind on the interconnected nature of everything that exists around us: this is because that is; this could not be because that wasn’t so, and so on. (If you were to compare it to modern management theory, you may perhaps find a parallel in “root-cause analysis.” But meditation is not only analysis, it is a lot of synthesis as well. To me, it is a process in which the cycle of analysis-synthesis comes to a stage where the universal unity of everything and what the Buddha called “emptiness of the self” is experienced.)

The point is, there are different kinds of meditation and they may be better suited to different situations. But the essence of meditation, in my opinion, is the inner silence deep within us and accessible to all of us—a source of infinite wisdom, energy, understanding… (Some of these ideas may sound mystical or esoteric, but at the experiential level, they are indeed very simple. Maybe I’ll come back with a longer piece on meditation some other time :)

Speaking of my individual experience, besides have a calming and joyous effect on the mind, the Kriya and meditation practice gradually but surely cured the physical symptoms of itching/needling I used to have after consuming sugar. As of the writing of this post, I have only slight problems (less intense itching and no needling sensation) and that too only if I really gorge on sugary foods—a rasgulla or two is perfectly all right!

Also, there are other additional benefits I have seen: earlier, prior to my regular practice, I would be afflicted with severe flu/cold at least three or four times a year. But in the past two-and-a-half years, this obnoxious condition has affected me only twice (and both times, healing occurred much more quickly, with barely any antibiotics.)

Needless to say, I’m now a walking-talking proponent of pranayama (not necessarily Sudarshan Kriya but any breathing routine for that matter), meditation and holistic living. The logic is simple: Why go for those umpteen diagnostic tests or risky surgery when a regular dose of ancient wisdom will do? Sure, pranayama would take longer and require more discipline on your part, but it will most likely offer lasting cure rather than symptomatic treatment and do so with fewer chances of relapse.

But remember, I’m not saying that the modern medical systems or hospitals are not required at all: I wouldn’t dare suggest deep breathing exercises to a man who has just been in a road accident and needs immediate medical attention. But I wouldn’t shy away from advising him to do a little bit of meditation later on, to remove, say, any residues of trauma the accident may have caused.

Never the one to force my ideas on others, I would rather let people discover the benefits that pranayama and meditation can bring to their lives in their own ways and at their own opportune time. Why force negatively when you can convince in a positive way?

The least I could do, however, was to write this rather long (though I hope non-boring) post.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What Does a Child Really, Really Want?

There is one and only one thing that a child ever wants - whether her parents are Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish or whatever organized religion they may belong to (I almost wrote "whether the child is Muslim... etc." but immediately realized my grave error, for children are religionless spiritual beings).

Whether the child lives in Jamaica or Jordan, Albania or Afghanistan, Uganda or US of A...Whether she has everything at her disposal or she herself is quickly disposed of...Whether she has black skin or white or brown..And that single most important thing is: Play.

Not the Google Play that most of us now recognize but the joyful twinkle of movement, the spontaneous rhythm of dance, the natural spring of song, the uninhibited crackle of laughter.. that so completely and naturally defines and envelopes a child.

And what does the so called civilized adult world do? Do everything in its power to take away the *play* from the child and, by the time she grows up, turn her into yet another robot, yet another junkie, or just another gloomy, stupid, moronic idiot!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Why Cook is the Apple of Privacy Advocates’ Eye

The battle between civil liberty and privacy on the one hand, and the reach of the law enforcement agencies for the (supposed) benefit of public/national security on the other, is taking interesting turns these days, especially in the digital realm. It is happening in the US right now, but something similar could soon reach Indian shores as well.

The case in point is the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) asking Apple to help it force-access data on the locked iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the two perpetrators of last December’s San Bernardino attack in which 14 people were killed (Farook and his accomplice wife were shot dead by the police on the same day; the iPhone in question is in FBI’s possession.) A federal magistrate in California is said to have ordered Apple to write a custom version of the iPhone software that disables key security features and install it on Farook's iPhone in order to foil the encryption, as per a report.

Apple has decided to contest the order, citing grave concerns about compromising the security and hence personal data of millions of its customers who trust the iPhone with their sensitive information. In fact CEO Tim Cook has taken the issue to its customers, posting an open letter to them on the Apple website.

“This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake,” writes Cook.

From the way the use of smartphones (not just iPhones but devices based on Android and other OSes) is proliferating around the world, including India, Cook might as well have said “people around the world.” And that is why I chose to post it here on dynamicCIO so that technologists, IT leaders, vendors and other stakeholders in the fast-emerging Indian digital ecosystem could ponder over it and keep their own responses and countermeasures ready when the need arises.

Interestingly, this is happening at a politically charged time here, what with the country in the grips of a fierce debate around freedom of speech, notions of nationalism or anti-nationalism and an allegedly authoritarian regime (which is said to be capable of not only breaching individual privacy—of which there is very little in India in the first place—but also bringing the full force of the machinery at its disposal to undermine any dissenting voices; reminiscent of but not equivalent to the Emergency year).

To return to Apple and FBI, both sides are putting their points across emphatically and logically—even causing a sort of schism in the online community on who is right or wrong in this case.
Says Cook in his letter: “For many years, we have used encryption to protect our customers’ personal data because we believe it’s the only way to keep their information safe. We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.”

Cook is highly concerned, and rightly according to several security experts quoted on the Internet in various reports, that once Apple complies with the FBI request to break the encryption on one iPhone, anyone can use that “backdoor” facility to gain unauthorized access to millions of these devices out there.

The FBI seems to understand this though it’s pressing on with its demand; FBI Director James Comey is said to have responded: “We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist's pass code without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly. That's it. We don't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the land.” [Source: Los Angeles Times article]

It is not fully clear from most reports (at least not to me, a non-expert in encryption) whether it is technically feasible for Apple to create an exception in the case WITHOUT compromising on the general robustness of the iPhone as far as encryption capabilities are concerned.

Not that Apple was not cooperating with the investigating authorities on the San Bernardino case or other government requests of similar nature. According to a New York Times article, enviously headlined (envious for Sundar Pichai, let’s say) “How Tim Cook, in iPhone Battle, Became a Bulwark for Digital Privacy,” Cook has been tediously cooperating with government requests (not just those from the US guv but globally) for unlocking its smartphones.

The Times writes: “Each data-extraction request was carefully vetted by Apple’s lawyers. Of those deemed legitimate, Apple in recent years required that law enforcement officials physically travel with the gadget to the company’s headquarters, where a trusted Apple engineer would work on the phones inside Faraday bags, which block wireless signals, during the process of data extraction.”

Apparently, Cook has been trying to do the fine balancing act of entertaining government requests and keeping its tight grip on the security features of its product intact but—as the latest (still developing) case reveals, a time has come when the envelope on “government overreach” is pushing the boundaries to an unprecedented, treacherous level.

And so the debate rages on.

Do let me know what you make of it.

(Image courtesy: Curiously, I happened to notice that this photo of Tim Cook is uploaded by someone at Apple under the name cook_hero :)

Note: This blog post first appeared on