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Thursday, October 21, 2021
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A Setu to Safety – All About the Aarogya Setu App

Written by Kamakshi Anand, a grade 11 student.

Aarogya Setu (Sanskrit for ‘bridge of health’) app, launched on April 2, 2020, is a mobile app developed by the Ministry of electronics and IT, Government of India, to help citizens identify their risk of contracting COVID-19.

By I Kid You Not , in Ages 12 - 18 News Opinion , at April 23, 2020 Tags: , , , , , ,

Written by Kamakshi Anand, a grade 11 student.

Aarogya Setu (Sanskrit for ‘bridge of health’) app, launched on April 2, 2020, is a mobile app developed by the Ministry of electronics and IT, Government of India, to help citizens identify their risk of contracting COVID-19. It has secured over 10 million downloads since its launch by the Prime Minister.

What is the Aarogya Setu app?

For those who are unaware of its function, it is designed to keep a user informed if they come in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. It has a simple enough working- the user has to answer a set of questions to help the software suggest if the person has the virus or not and in case of the former, information is sent to a government server to enable the government to take timely steps.

But, there is a recent controversy on the functioning of the app and the risk it poses to the rights of individuals. Privacy, a word that is becoming increasingly synonymous with security and also becoming very easy to breach in the name of security, is said to be threatened by this supposedly helpful app and I’m here to tell you why.

The Aarogya Setu app has been created on the model of the Singaporean app TraceTogether and other apps like Private Kit that have come into existence to track those who have been affected by the Coronavirus. The idea behind this app is wonderful but it is the execution that is faulty, as is the case of many government policies around the world.

The first, most visible problem is the ambiguous and vague worded privacy policy and terms of use which happen to be the only legal framework under which the app operates. This provides room for government manipulation of information which may be used by other government agencies.

TraceTogether, however, clearly states that the data collected through the app can only be used by the country’s health ministry; the Aarogya Setu app does not. Secondly, the app asks users to always keep their GPS and Bluetooth on which enables the software to identify contact traces of COVID-19 positive patients. This takes place through data sharing between devices with the app when they are in close proximity.

Aarogya Setu also warns users that should they deny permission to GPS and Bluetooth, it may led to false assessment of COVID-19 and that an exchange of devices may lead to a false reporting of positives. Privacy-focused groups such as the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) are raising alarm over this highly controversial app for all the right reasons, drawing attention to its compliance of the globally-held privacy standards as well as our constitutionally protected Right to Privacy which was acquired after a long legal battle. The IFF is not just pointing out the problems with the app but also suggesting technological reforms and interventions to make it effective and indeed safe in its true sense. Moreover, there are concerns about information collection.

While the government has repeatedly insisted that all the data collected by the app would reside within the device locally, it equally says that in certain conditions the information could be uploaded to a cloud server. At this point, it would indeed be a waste of my voice if I didn’t use it to move the government to action over this controversial app.

My first suggestion would be to not blindly copy a preventive measure taken by another country in hopes that it would be compatible in our society as well where out of a population of over a billion, only 500 million enjoy the privilege of access to a smartphone.

The Aarogya Setu app is proving to be more of a topic of debate rather than an appreciable initiative. As much as India wants to become a technologically advanced and developed country, the government needs to realise that all measures will only prove successful if they are accessible by over ¾ of the population and not just a good addition to a speech. Too many words have been said, too many promises have been made, funds have been created and sufficiently funded; the time now is not to say, but to do.

I urge you all to stay at home, stay safe- from the virus and such apps- and of course, to help those who are not as fortunate as you and are unable to afford the cost of staying safely at home.

Written by Kamakshi Anand, a grade 11 student.

Written by Kamakshi Anand
Kamakshi is a prolific writer. She’s been writing on Instagram for 2 years (@wingedwords02) and her work has also been published in 4 anthologies. She is currently working on a poetry manuscript and also writes for a mental health awareness organisation. Kamakshi is the content editor for her school magazine.

Want to write for I Kid You Not? We publish children’s writing.
Reach out at: ikidyounott@yahoo.com


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