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Is govt using contact tracing app Aarogya Setu as surveillance tool? Find out here

The contact tracing app, Arogya Setu, was launched on 2 April to help users self-assess and cure COVID-19 infections. However, cyber privacy experts have drawn some conclusions on its privacy flaws.

Since the launch of Arogya Setu, the government has left no stone unturned in encouraging more people to download the app. According to the Google Play Store, the app has reached 50 million downloads on the platform alone. However, many privacy activists and organizations have expressed serious concern over surveillance that could cause damage to the contact tracing app.

What’s bothering some experts?

According to cyber security experts, Arogya Setu can violate the privacy of its users and become a government monitoring tool. The research paper evaluated the app on different privacy features against similar apps specific to COVID-19 – Private Kit: Safe Paths Project of Tresetal and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Singapore.

CoronavirusPixabay

Despite the concerns, Prime Minister Modi and many government agencies encourage citizens to download the app.

How does the app work?

In the beginning, the app finds it useful to tell the person if they are at risk of contracting the coronovirus by taking a test. The user simply needs to allow GPS location and Bluetooth access for the app to work.

However, experts expressed concern over the terms and conditions that state that “personal information stored in the cloud may also be shared with such other essential and relevant persons as may be necessary to carry out necessary medical and administrative interventions” . “

Meera Swaminathan, a policy officer at The Center for Internet and Society, a Delhi-Bangalore-based think tank, pointed out that privacy policies are set in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines. She adds that the use of “may” in the terms and conditions gives the app developer the discretion to do whatever with the data.

He said, “The word should be used instead of ‘may’.”

Is the app really a privacy threat?

Following privacy concerns, app policies were updated to protect users’ personal data.

Kovid-19 Precautionary Awareness

As per the updated terms, the policy limits the purpose of data collection and explicitly states that the information will not be shared with third parties, whenNecessary medical and administrative interventionAre required.

The old policy collected personal information such as name, phone number, age, gender, occupation and travel history in the last 30 days. However, the update policy only requests the mobile number that is mandatory to receive the OTP.

Additionally, the information collected by the app will be kept on the mobile device for a period of 30 days from the date of collection. After 45 days of uploading to the server, information related to those tested negatively will be removed. Whereas, those who tested positive, their information will be corrected after 60 days.

These measures should definitely ease the concerns of privacy advocates and encourage users to download the app for better contact tracing by the government to prevent the spread of coronaviruses in India.

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