A video explainer on why advocacy groups argue that there should be more transparency on the inner workings of the Aarogya Setu app
Aarogya Setu App, India’s main contact tracing technology, was launched on April 2nd this year. The app was developed by the National Informatics Centre under the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology.
According to NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, it has become the world’s fastest app to reach 50 million downloads in just 13 days.
Aarogya Setu is designed to keep track of other app users that a person came in contact with. It then alerts app users if any of the contacts tests positive for COVID-19.
Also read: Health Ministry launches Aarogya Setu IVRS facility for those without smartphones
The app uses the phone’s Bluetooth and GPS capabilities. It will keep a record of all other Aarogya Setu users that it detected nearby using Bluetooth. It will also use a GPS log of all the places that the device had been at 15-minute intervals.
These records are stored on the phone till the time any user tests positive or declares symptoms of COVID-19 in a self-assessment survey in the app. In such cases, the records are uploaded to the servers.
The app is available in 11 languages. All Central government officials, including the outsourced workforce, have been directed to download it. On April 14, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation appealed to people to download the app.
But concerns have been raised by experts and even ethical hackers on the privacy of the application. Critics say that Arogya Setu, and applications like Sahyog that link to it, could infringe privacy as there was no clarity on how data would be shared between the two applications.
The policy goes into some detail on where and how long the data will be retained. But it leaves the language around who will have access to it vague.
As per the policy, “persons carrying out medical and administrative interventions necessary in relation to COVID-19” will have access to the data.
Advocacy groups argue that there should be more transparency on the inner workings of an app that is being promoted by the government and which is asking for the personal details of millions of citizens.