Aarogya Setu must be given institutional backing to address privacy concern

By Saket Suman

Contact tracing app Aarogya Setu has been made mandatory for both government and private sector employees in India. The app is useful in tracing the Covid-19 cases. The app will be effective only if the majority of the people use it. To achieve its objectives the government is aggressively pushing for the use of this app.

Besides employees, it has been made mandatory for the people within a containment zone.

In the coming days the government is likely to keep pushing for its uses. It makes it imperative to address the privacy concern. Democratic values and civil liberties of the common people must be protected. This can be achieved by giving the app an institutional backing.

“Use of Aarogya Setu app shall be made mandatory for all employees, both private and public. It shall be the responsibility of the head of the respective organisations to ensure 100 per cent coverage of this app among the employees,” the government said in a statement.

Several experts and politicians have raised concern over the possible misuse of the app. The government may use it for surveillance and harass its adversaries.

“The Arogya Setu app, is a sophisticated surveillance system, outsourced to a pvt operator, with no institutional oversight – raising serious data security & privacy concerns. Technology can help keep us safe; but fear must not be leveraged to track citizens without their consent,” Former Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has announced that it will be mandatory for the residents of the Containment Zone to use Aarogya Setu app. “The local authority shall ensure 100 per cent coverage of Aarogya Setu app among the residents of the Containment Zone,” Ministry of Home Affairs said while announcing the extension of the nationwide lockdown for the second time. The lockdown has been extended for another two weeks beginning May 4.

The government has aggressively pushed for the uses of the app saying it won’t create privacy issues.

Defending the app Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said the app will help “curbs false information and you also know if there is a COVID-19 positive person in your vicinity. The app will continue for next 1-2 years.”

“Daily a new lie. Aarogya Setu is a powerful companion which protects people. It has a robust data security architecture. Those who indulged in surveillance all their lives, won’t know how tech can be leveraged for good!” Union Minister for Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad said in reply to Rahul Gandhi’s tweet.

Aarogya Setu mobile app was launched by the government of India on 2 April with an objective to enable people to assess themselves the risk of their catching the Corona Virus infection. The app calculates the risk based on the user’s interaction with others, using cutting edge Bluetooth technology, algorithms and artificial intelligence.

The user, upon installation, is asked to answer a number of questions. In case some of the answers suggest COVID-19 symptoms, the information is sent to the Government server. This helps the government take timely steps and initiate the isolation procedure if necessary and it also alerts if someone comes in close proximity with a person tested positive. The app is available on both Google Play (for Android phones) and iOS app store (for iphones ). It is available in 11 languages – 10 Indian language and English.

[starbox id = “Saket”]

Gyanendra Kumar Keshri

Gyanendra Kumar Keshri is consulting editor of BiharConnect. He has nearly 20 years of experience in journalism, having worked for diverse media streams in India and abroad.

Related Articles

Back to top button