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Sunday, July 25, 2021
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Safety Or Surveillance: Is It A Choice?

Written by Kamakshi Anand, a grade 11 student.

Two weeks ago, I discussed the right to privacy with respect to the Aarogya Setu app and the safety threat it poses,…

By I Kid You Not , in Ages 12 - 18 Coronavirus Opinion , at May 12, 2020 Tags: , , ,

Written by Kamakshi Anand, a grade 11 student.

Two weeks ago, I discussed the right to privacy with respect to the Aarogya Setu app and the safety threat it poses, but unfortunately, the government’s endeavours to promote this app and its ignorance of its various short comings put me in a situation where I cannot go without addressing them.

The right to choice is perhaps one of the most important rights of a free individual, a free citizen. By not choosing to use the aarogya setu app, Indians chose to keep their privacy safe and their right to privacy intact. By choosing to speak up an draw the attention of the country’s administration, several NGOs and individuals tried to keep others’ privacy alive. While use of the app was earlier recommended but voluntary, downloading has been made mandatory for all government staff by the Department of Personal and Training through an order on April 29 and for all employees in the public and private sector through a Ministry of Home affairs order on May 1. Aarogya Setu continuously collects data on the location of the user and cross-references it with the Central government database to understand whether the user has come into contact with an infected person. But who can use this data besides the health ministry? Can the users do anything should the government change its privacy policy for the worse? I want to but it is impossible for me to be honest and answer this question in affirmative, at once.

This is not the only problem with the app. The government’s Aarogya Setu app was not accessible to persons with disabilities (PwD), particularly those with hearing and visual impairment, the Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry has informed the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the app developer, the National Informatics Centre (NIC). This inaccessibility is a violation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

The petition against the Aarogya Setu app  which was sent on May 1, with a cover letter sent on May 2 after the home ministry’s most recent order – expresses “serious concern about violation of privacy of workers through mandated use of the Aarogya Setu mobile app”. The signatories include organisations like Amnesty India, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Asia Dalit Rights Forum, All India Central Council of Trade Unions, PUDR, Indian Journalists Union, MKSS and Indian Federation of App Transport Workers. It enjoys the support of over a hundred other prominent individuals including retired bureaucrats, advocates and other civil society leaders.

Around 45 organisations and more than 100 individuals on 2ND MAY 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. The government representative, however, denied that there were privacy issues.

Instead of fixing the app, taking preventive measures to avoid misuse, this has become a political basis for attacking the BJP. Without providing an alternative, the opposition wants people to risk government penalty for refusing to use the app. Rahul Gandhi called it “a sophisticated surveillance system”, to which the BJP replied rather on the offensive side which was not shocking but somehow brought forth the issue with Indian politics where accepting mistakes or criticism from the opposition in a constructive way is considered a loss for the party.

Hitting out at Rahul Gandhi the BJP said the Congress leader spoke a “new lie” daily and retorted that those who indulged in surveillance all their lives won’t know how technology can be leveraged for good. Senior party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is also communications, electronics and information technology minister, rejected Gandhi’s charge that the app has been outsourced to a private operator and asserted that it has a robust data security architecture.

An initiative that was supposed to protect us has failed in its function but done something quite remarkable- the Indians, now, have a voice, they are participating in their country at a time when Bharat Mata needs her children the most. Something that threatened to take our rights away has unintentionally helped us find our voice. The best you can do at this time is staying safe at home and providing yourself with no reason to have to use an app that will not necessarily keep us safe from anything but the government.

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

Please note: the views expressed in all opinion pieces belong to the writer. They do not reflect the opinions of the platform. I Kid You Not believes in giving a voice to today’s teens and children, not matter which side of the debate they are on.

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