Updated: May 10, 2020 4:43:54 pm
Written by: Shubhang Gopal
Last month, the Government of India launched Aarogya Setu, a contact tracing app built by the National Informatics Centre, MeitY. With this app, the Indian government aims to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country. The app already has nearly 90 million downloads and is available on both Google Play Store and Apple App Store.
Despite having millions of downloads several concerns have been raised regarding the ethics behind the collection of user data, and the constant surveillance of the users via Bluetooth and GPS. The app uses Bluetooth and location data to trace the movement of users and track if they have come in contact with a COVID-19 positive person.
The government has made it mandatory for a certain group of people to download the Aarogya Setu app on their mobile phones. If you still haven’t installed the app on your phone here are some important things you must know about India’s own contact tracing application.
* The app tries to track the coronavirus infection by using Bluetooth to determine if the user has been within six-feet of an infected person, by cross-referencing the pan-India database of all COVID-19 patients in the country.
* Aarogya Setu app uses location data to determine which zone (red, orange, green) the user is in, and what are the infection rates and active COVID-19 cases in that particular area.
* The app’s UI mainly carries out four key functions- telling the current status of the user’s locality, determining the risk of the user getting infected with COVID-19, providing the user with local and national updates on COVID19 cases.
* Recently, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had accused Aarogya Setu to be a ‘sophisticated surveillance system’ with severe privacy concerns and had even indicated the possibility of unethical usage of user data. His claims were rebutted by Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who praised the app’s robust security architecture and guaranteed privacy of data of all users.
* A popular French hacker Robert Baptiste (popularly known as Elliot Alderson on Twitter), who earlier found major flaws in the GoI’s mAdhaar app, also tweeted about finding security issues in Aarogya Setu, even tagging their Twitter account, asking them to contact him privately.
* In response, Aarogya Setu released an official statement that very evening, assuring that no user’s personal information was at risk, and that they had a conversation with Baptiste and what was being projected by him as a flaw in the app was actually by design. They also assured the users that no security breach had been identified in the app.
* Some reports now suggest that Aarogya Setu app will be pre-installed in smartphones. Speaking to indianexpress.com, Xiaomi India Managing Director Manu Kumar Jain said that the company hasn’t received any guidelines from the government yet. Jain clarified that if the government orders the app will come preloaded with Xiaomi devices.
* Earlier this week the government of India launched Aarogya Setu IVRS for feature phones and landlines. To use the service users will need to just give a missed call to the registered number and answer some questions to receive their health status via SMS.
* According to PTI, Aarogya Setu will be soon available to 10 crore Jio phone uses In the country. Testing of the solution is currently said to be underway.
Shubhang Gopal is an intern with indianexpress.com
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