India's Aarogya Setu app faces opposition over rules

(Image credit: Future)

There is good news as well as bad news on the Aarogya Setu app front. This mobile app created by the Indian government for tracking Covid-19 patients, has recorded close to 90 million (9 crore) downloads to date, and is being updated with features such as offering telemedicine. 

A day after this news emerged, comes the development that the Manufacturers’ Association Of Information Technology (MAIT) is not happy with the government regulation making it mandatory for both private and public sector employees and officials to install the application.

A media report said  MAIT is particularly unhappy over the clause in the government order holding heads of private companies liable if their employees had not installed the app.

The Ministry of Home Affairs in a notification last week had allowed factories and offices in designated zones to begin operations while mandating the use of the contact tracing Aarogya Setu app by all employees and entrusted the organisational heads with ensuring its 100 percent coverage.

“Dereliction by an individual employee should not be a sword hanging over management,” MAIT’s chief executive officer George Paul was quoted as saying in the report. 

MAIT, whose members, among others, include Cisco, Dell, Intel and Canon, has said that it would write to the government to withdraw this measure.

Privacy issues

Aarogya Setu 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. The app uses Bluetooth and GPS-based location tracking to identify the possible positive coronavirus cases around the user. 

On Monday (May 4), Aarogya Setu unveiled a new Mitr portal using which people can book free online consultation related to coronavirus, home lab test, and order medicine.

Even as Aarogya Setu app gets popular, privacy advocates are not comfortable with some of its features. They, along with Indian opposition parties, allege that Aarogya Setu is a surveillance app. 

"In the name of contact tracing, Aarogya Setu collects registration details, GPS locations, nearby device data and this can be used to identify your social graph. The app collects too much information on registration and none of this data is required for contact tracing," is the gist of their concern.

However, the government has clarified that the user data will not be shared, and all personal information is stored locally on the device and will be used  “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.”

Balakumar K
Senior Editor

Over three decades as a journalist covering current affairs, politics, sports and now technology. Former Editor of News Today, writer of humour columns across publications and a hardcore cricket and cinema enthusiast. He writes about technology trends and suggest movies and shows to watch on OTT platforms.