Aarogya Setu, the COVID-19 contact tracing app launched by the Indian Government, has become the fastest to reach 50 million downloads so far. The app achieved the feat in a record 13 days, according to government think tank NITI Aayog’s chairman Amitabh Kant. The feat is remarkable in many ways, one of which is the intense privacy debate that some have created around it for a while.
Aarogya Setu, which translates to “a bridge to health,” was launched about 2 weeks back. The app uses a smartphone’s Bluetooth and location feature to assess if a person has been near a COVID-19 infected person. How it does that is fairly simple. It uses the government database of positive cases along with their geographical mapping to see if a person has been through a possibly infected area.
While the idea behind the app may seem noble at first , one cannot forgo the privacy concerns surrounding Aarogya Setu. On the other hand, while handling such sensitive data requires meticulous measures, one can surely agree that given the unprecedented health crisis on hand, privacy can take the backseat-at least for now.
Indian authorities have fiercely defended the app, stating that the data from the app is only shared with relevant government authorities and no third parties. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also been “insisting” the public to download the app on multiple occasions. Surely, we can let the cynic in us rest for a while, given the fact that there is no solid proof to back the concerns and everything right now is hearsay.
Interestingly, while the general public is being asked to use the app, the Indian Army has forbidden its personnel against using the app while on office premises, operational areas and in other sensitive locations, according to a report by The Print. Privacy leaks are the last thing India needs right now as the cases soar to 12,380 along with 414 casualties.