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Aarogya Setu Records 9 Cr Downloads, But IT Cos Raise Red Flag About Mandatory Installs

Aarogya Setu Records 9 Cr Downloads, But IT Cos Raise Red Flag About Mandatory Installs

Govt has made Aarogya Setu app mandatory for private and public employees

Govt is holding company heads responsible for employees downloading the app

Several people have raised privacy concerns about the app

Even as Indian government’s contact trace app Aarogya Setu recorded more than 90 Mn (9 Cr) downloads, ICT apex body Manufacturers’ Association Of Information Technology (MAIT) has raised the red flag against the regulation, which makes it mandatory for both private and public sector employees and officials to install the application.

MAIT, which includes tech giants like Cisco, Dell, Intel, Candon and others said that the government’s order, which holds heads of private companies liable for punitive measures to ensure that all employees have the app installed, must go. The association said that heads of the industries are equally enthusiastic about resuming their operations and it will ensure all measures are taken in that direction. “It is advisable that punitive measures on heads (of companies) be withdrawn,” George Paul, CEO of MAIT, told Economic Times.

The statement comes in the backdrop of the Center’s move to ease lockdown in designated zones even as curbs were extended till May 17.

Service Offered By Aarogya Setu 

The app, which is available in 11 languages was launched on April 2, offers a self-assessment test, and captures the user’s vulnerability to Covid-19 infection and gives contextual advice. It also empowers people with information on the potential risk of infection and how to avoid it.

It also leverages Bluetooth and GPS-based location tracking to identify the possible positive coronavirus cases around the user. It detects other devices with the app and alerts users based on proximity to the device. It also captures all information and informs authorities about the movement of suspect cases.

Within three days of its launch, Aarogya Setu was downloaded over 15 Mn times. This pushed the government to transform it into a one-step solution for all healthcare needs by installing new features and services, leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning. The government believes that this would reduce the burden on the healthcare system by providing remote healthcare support.

On May 4 (Monday), Aarogya Setu also rolled out a new Mitr portal to offer free telemedicine and consultation services for coronavirus-related inquiries. The portal would also allow users to book doorstep lab tests and order medicines online.  The Aarogya Setu Mitr portal has been developed in a public-private partnership (PPP) through a high-powered committee involving departments and business leaders.

Privacy Concerns Raises Questions  

Though the app clarifies that the user data will not be shared, it adds that personal information may be shared with other people for necessary medical and administrative interventions.

As per the app’s privacy policy, all personal information is stored locally on the device and will be used by the government (via the cloud) “in anonymised, aggregated datasets for the purpose of generating reports, heat maps and other statistical visualisations for the purpose of the management of Covid-19 in the country or if the user tests positive, or comes in contact with someone who has tested positive.”

However, privacy advocates have questioned the use of this data once in the post-Covid world. As per cybersecurity consultancy firm Defensive Lab Agency’s analysis, the Aarogya Setu app gathers a user’s identity, tracks their movement in realtime, and also checks if other people in close proximity have downloaded the app. This will allow the app to create a social graph of a user by tracking everyone they have been close to.

The report highlights that combining this data with existing government databases can significantly expand the government’s powers of surveillance.

Meanwhile, Zomato’s cofounder and CEO Deepinder Goyal highlighted that “being on the frontline exposes our delivery partners to catch the infection, and therefore, any customers that they get in touch with for those few handover seconds. By mandating all its delivery staff to use Aarogya Setu, the idea is to keep individuals, as well as authorities, informed in case they have crossed paths with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus to prevent further spread.

Allaying fears, a government official from MeitY, on condition of anonymity, told ET that, “Anyone who is in the red rating should not come to work, and only those who are green should step out. Privacy matters to that extent only and the larger economy of the country has to be also taken care of.”

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