Aarogya Setu App

Aarogya Setu is the first touch tracing application available in India. It allows users who have come into contact with Covid-19 patients to be notified, traced and backed up. This app was launched by India as governments around the world used contact tracing to raise awareness of the situation to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in the absence of any proven vaccine to contain the spread of virus.

It has been developed by the National Informatics Centre that comes under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

Features:

1) The software needs ongoing access to location information through GPS and Bluetooth technologies to alert people to the Covid-19 hotspots and allow social distance standards when they come into contact with any infected person.

2) Under the Disaster Management Act, this software was made compulsory for people living in containment areas, employees of the public sector, passengers, all employees permitted to work during the lockdown, stranded Indians who came to India under the Vande Bharat Mission.

3) The software utilizes the capabilities of Bluetooth and GPS on the phone. It will keep a record of anything else users of Aarogya Setu detected by it using Bluetooth nearby. Even it can use a GPS log of all the places the unit was in an interval of 15 minutes.

4) After accessing the app, the app must go check where you are and post your data, with the government if you have positive screening for coronavirus, or was in near touch with a person tested positively.

5) Such records are stored on the phone before any user checks, or declares, positive COVID-19 signs in an App self-assessment study. For such instances the documents are uploaded to servers.

Advantages of the App:

  • That app will tell you if you're a suspect corona patient, or not, based on your fitness, place, and history of travel. It will tell you how much danger you face, and what steps to take.
  • The government has called on all people to download this app so they can contribute to the war against Corona. You will learn many things through the 'Arogya Setu App,' including the risk, spread, treatment of coronavirus. This app can be used by Bluetooth and GPS.
  • The application is designed to use technology to find solutions to complex social problems and is based on the concept of technical solution.
  • It is very important for authorities and individuals to be aware as to whether they had come close to the infected person. As the economy progresses towards reopening, this software enables the government to identify diseases and avoid transmission to the population.
  • The App suggests self-assessment training, expectations of social distance, and other do's and don'ts. The App also acts as a platform for issuing e-passes and safety certificates for people applying for travel.

 

Issues with the App:

  1. The App has been heavily criticized for failing to comply with data security standards of data minimization, intent restriction, openness and accountability which are necessary to protect the user's privacy.
  2. Security flaws in the App recently revealed by a French 'ethical hacker' have raised serious questions about users' privacy.
  3. The App is not an open-source application and could therefore not be audited by independent coders for security flaws. This raises serious questions about the App's purpose, as it could well be used to advance a surveillance state's needs.
  4. Government issued guidelines to all employers to ensure that this App is activated by their employees. This act of coercion and intimidation infringes the right to privacy, which is a fundamental right as held in Puttaswamy case by the Supreme Court, 2017.
  5. The App also shed light on the inequalities between urban and rural areas, and is discriminatory as such. Rural areas and low-income communities are less likely to have smartphones, and people in urban areas can use this device disproportionately.
  6. There are no reasonable protections against data theft, because the code can be misused. The App's misuse can pave the way for stigmatisation, especially in a society like India that has recorded instances of community members refusing burial of corona-positive patients.
  7. The App is seen as a flagrant breach of the right of the users to self-determination of information and the right to be forgotten.

 

Conclusion:

The Government should take indications from other countries that have successful contact tracing experiences while protecting the users' privacy. The App also needs to have strong legislative backing that clearly outlines the intent and rational methods for achieving the legitimate objective. When considering the law, the implementation of data security standards as outlined by the BN Srikrishna Committee must be ensured. The law would create a balance between controlling the disease along with privacy. The App could be opened to encourage researchers to explore the potential of any vulnerabilities to security. Information security and surveillance issues should be addressed enough to gain people's confidence, especially in the light of other government initiatives aimed at creating a database of people's health records to make medical care simpler and in a timely manner.