In an attempt to contain the pandemic from spreading further across the country, the Indian government is planning to use phone tracker to keep a tap on the Covid-19 infected patients and monitor people for staying indoor.
With the explosion in the number of cases, multiple apps allowing users to track their contact with infected people are mushrooming on the App Store and Google Play Store. Similar to this, several apps are now being launched in India, including Corona Watch by Karnataka government, COVID-19 Quarantine Monitor Tamil Nadu and Test Yourself Goa, Corona Kavach, COVA Punjab among others.
How Tracking Apps Help Authorities?
While most of these apps provide citizens with preventive care information, self-assessment tools with preventive care data, along with other government advisories, they also use smartphone location data and cross-verifies it against government databases of Covid-19 positive cases. More than anything, it alerts users if they come in contact with anyone who has been infected and notifies them to stay indoors.
According to various media reports, the government think tank Niti Aayog is planning to develop an advanced version of this platform called the Cowin-20, which uses Bluetooth-based location access to understand the proximity between the users and the Covid-19 infected patients.
The Questions Of Privacy
The entire world has declared war against Covid-19, and the governments across the globe, including China, South Korea, Israel and Italy among others are looking at citizens phones to track the infected. Apart from using phone location, few countries are taking extreme measures, where they are using face recognition surveillance software and credit card records, among other tools to tackle coronavirus pandemic from spreading.
UK-based Covid Symption Tracker is an app that delivers insights into why some people are susceptible to the disease more severely than others. The app also shows the map where outbreaks are happening and help distinguish cases from those of the common flu or fever.
In China, smartphone-based location tracking has proved to be an effective tool and has helped the government to null the virus.
However, these measures come with a lot of questions about public safety, data security and individual’s right to privacy. India is definitely next in line to get such apps, but there are issues of using location tracking beyond the pandemic as well.