‘To track citizens’: Rahul Gandhi on compulsory use of Aarogya Setu app
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said the compulsory use of the Aarogya Setu app, with no institutional checks, is bound to raise data and privacy concerns for the citizens. He added it is akin to spying on citizens.
“The Arogya Setu app, is a sophisticated surveillance system, outsourced to a pvt operator, with no institutional oversight - raising serious data security & privacy concerns. Technology can help keep us safe; but fear must not be leveraged to track citizens without their consent,” tweeted Gandhi this evening.
Soon after the Congress leader’s tweet, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, dismissing the snooping charge, underlined how the app helps protect people in their fight against the coronavirus.
“Daily a new lie. Aarogya Setu is a powerful companion which protects people. It has a robust data security architecture. Those who indulged in surveillance all their lives, won’t know how tech can be leveraged for good!,” tweeted the minister.
The government, on Friday, made the Aarogya Setu App mandatory for people living in the coronavirus Containment Zones inside the 130 districts identified as the Red Zones. The government considers the App to be a handy coronavirus containment tool which can be used to assess the level of risk an individual is exposed to vis-a-vis Covid-19 infection.
The App, developed by the ministry of electronics and information technology (MEITY), uses cell phone tracking technology to put individuals in low-risk, moderate and high-risk categories by tracing if the person came in contact with a virus-infected patient or a person suspected to be infected.
Around 45 organisations and more than 100 individuals on Saturday wrote to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad against the mandatory use of the Aarogya Setu app for workers in both private and public workplaces.
“While the government initially claimed that the use of Aarogya Setu would be purely voluntary, downloading the app was soon made mandatory for all Central Armed Police Forces personnel and employees of Prasar Bharati,” the letter signed by the groups stated. The move could also violate privacy laws as well as the Puttaswamy privacy judgement, the letter says.
The government representative, however, denied that there were privacy issues.
Abhishek Singh of MyGov termed the concerns as non-issues and said that the app is mandatory only till the pandemic exists. “Till the epidemic law is in force, only those who are travelling to offices will have to download the app. Once the epidemic is over, a user can delete the app,” Singh said.
He said that due to demand from all quarters to open business, which brings in the possibility of contamination, offices were asked to ensure that the app is downloaded. “Commercial organisations have not raised the issue, neither have industry bodies like FICCI, ASSOCHAM or NASSCOM,” said Singh.