What does Aarogya Setu App do?

Since the government of India launched the Aarogya Setu App to keep track of the number of Coronavirus cases in India, more than 50 million people have installed the app via Play store and App store. But critics have raised ambiguity over potential privacy breach even as the country combats a pandemic.
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Crux of the Matter

How does the App work?
PM Modi in a recent address to the nation asked citizens of India to use the Arogya Setu App. As case numbers of COVID-19 crossed 10,000 in India, PM Modi declared an extension of lockdown till 3rd May.

The app’s main motive is to do live monitoring and trace the travel history of the user. It also has the health record of the user. As per the Government, Aarogya Setu uses the live location and Bluetooth-based proximity to keep track of an individual. The app helps users to do a self-test of coronavirus symptoms. Users will receive an alert on entering a coronavirus hotspot zone. The app also notifies the users if they come in contact with a COVID-19 patient. The security in the app is enhanced and fortified with the help of technology shared by Google and Apple. 

+ve’s and -ve’s
Privacy-focused groups such as the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) have raised several doubts regarding the app. Lack of disclosure of the accountability and responsibility of data collection and its security can be dangerous for the privacy of citizens, it said. The legal framework of the app is limited only to the Privacy Policy and the Terms of Use. Using GPS for tracking the location is also against “privacy-focused global standards”. Incomplete disclosure of information and limits of the app can be molded anytime according to the convenience of the government and could be used beyond the purpose it was made, the group said. The report suggests that there should be proper disclosure of everything about the app like Singapore did when it launched one such app to track COVID-19 patients. 

India leads the way in contact tracing for COVID-19: privacy first by design, secure, robust and scalable to billion users. Glad to see Apple and Google joining hands to develop contact tracing on the lines of Aarogya Setu.

Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog

The World Bank praised the app and innovative efforts of the Government, which has proved effective in preventing the community spread of the virus. This is for the first time that the government of India has collected health care data on an individual basis. This data has proved to be very effective for the government in taking action and in framing policies to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Going Digital Across the Globe
Countries across the world have developed Apps to keep track of Coronavirus Cases and to keep people safe from infections. China developed the “Alipay Health Code” app to keep track of people infected with COVID-19. Similarly, Singapore developed the TrackTogether App and BlueTrace online portal to keep track of the number of Coronavirus Cases. eRouška named App was launched by the Czech Republic. Ghana launched the “GH COVID-19 Tracker App”. France came up with the “Stop COVID” Application.

  • Since its launch, the app has crossed over 50 million downloads and has a rating of more than 4.5/5. The app broke Pokemon Go’s record to become the fastest to cross 50 million downloads – in 13 days
  • Since launch, the application has also gained suspicion towards privacy breaches and other privacy concerns. When compared to 2 similar apps – TraceTogether by Singapore govt and Private Kit: Safe Paths by MIT – the authority that designed the application “lacks any representation from the ministry of health and family welfare, or any independent involvement of persons with a medical or epidemiological background,” according to IFF’s (Internet Freedom Foundation) paper.
  • Other popular government apps are PMKISAN GoI app, mParivahan app, Ente Ration Card app, AwaasApp, Government eProcurement System, etc.