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Aarogya Setu is a mobile application developed by the Government of India to connect essential health services with the people of India in our combined fight against COVID-19. The App is aimed at augmenting the initiatives of the Government of India, particularly the Department of Health, in proactively reaching out to and informing the users of the app regarding risks, best practices and relevant advisories pertaining to the containment of COVID-19.
Recently, the Central Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched an application to track and contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus and have become the fastest app to reach 5 crore users ever even though it is surrounded by privacy concerns.
Aarogya Setu which means Healthcare Bridge and the app alerts its users if they come in contact or in close vicinity of an infected or possibly infected person along with providing them with the information like contact details of the authorities if they seek medical help.
Singapore has launched a similar application called TraceTogether last month, and American tech giants Apple and Google have joined hands to develop a technology which can restrict the spread of the pandemic by alerting the users if they should self- isolate or self- quarantine themselves after getting in contact with an infected person.
In the latest South Asia Economic Focus report, the World Bank said, “Digital technologies can be used to monitor the spread of Covid-19. Such initiatives, largely voluntary, have been successful in helping combat the pandemic in East Asia,”.
Aarogya Setu unfavorably compares to the Singaporean application TraceTogether says the Internet Freedom Foundation.
While there are countries, including Singapore, which say that contact tracing (including through applications) will only be used for disease control and cannot be used to enforce lockdowns or quarantines, Aarogya Setu app retains the flexibility and do exactly that.
Other applications collect minimum data which is subsequently replaced with a scrubbed device identifies whereas Aarogya Setu apply collects various data points including personal and sensitive information which increases the risk of a breach in Privacy.
Sidharth Deb, The Policy and Parliamentary Counsel at the Internet Freedom Foundation said, “As such the Aarogya Setu application appears to clearly be inconsistent with privacy-first efforts,” in a working paper. He added that “there is a need to immediately rollback the application or expedite measures to improve the app’s design and deployment in terms of the trust, security and informational privacy.”
The representatives of the Indian Health Ministry and Informational Technology Ministry did not comment on this as of now, however, the Indian Army has advised its personnel that they cannot use Aarogya Setu app while on office premises, operational areas and other sensitive locations as reported by The Print.
On 14th April, at 10:00 PM when Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation he requested the citizens to download and use the Aarogya Setu application.
The app is available on both Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store:
Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=nic.goi.aarogyasetu&hl=en
App store: https://apps.apple.com/in/app/aarogyasetu/id1505825357