In the second instance of Karnataka releasing personal data of those affected by Covid-19 online, details of those in home quarantine were available in public domain for hours on Sunday, before being taken down by the evening.
The list of thousands of people across 30 districts of the state – including their full names, mobile number, address, and date of completion of home quarantine – was visible on the ‘Parihara’ website, linked to the web-application of the same name. The details could also be downloaded and exported to an Excel-sheet format.
A health department official termed it “a technical glitch”.
“We were not aware of the details going public till some people reached out to us. Action was taken immediately to put the information behind a login. Privacy concerns of home quarantined people are important,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The website now requires login credentials for the information, which can only be accessed by officials and volunteers appointed by the government to enforce the quarantine.
Before this, in March too, details of people under home quarantine had been made public by the government. Anivar Aravind, a tech activist, was among those who had alerted the government then.
On Sunday, Aravind told indianexpress.com that such repeated incidents indicate the “pathetic handling” of sensitive data by the Karnataka government.
“This is the second time such an irresponsible thing has taken place in Karnataka, a state that boasts of the best IT infrastructure in the country. Awareness on citizen-friendly privacy-preserving data governance seems low among government officials so far,” he said.
“We had even flagged that several mini-startups were building location search tools using the published citizen data, resulting in social exclusion of quarantined people,” Aravind added.
Vinay Sreenivasa, a member of the Alternative Law Forum, said the government action violated the Right to Privacy. “The Karnataka government should not have violated people’s privacy by publishing their personal details on a public domain. The information should be restricted only to people in charge of monitoring those in home quarantine, especially when there is still some stigma linked to Covid-19,” he said.
By July 12, 38,843 coronavirus cases were cumulatively recorded in Karnataka, out of which 18,387 were from the capital city Bengaluru.
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