Is Aarogya setu, the Apps used for contact tracing is actually a sophisticated surveillance system of the Government with data being manipulated and used without the consent and knowledge of the user?
Many IT specialist thinks so and now it has taken a political shape as Congress MP Rahul Gandhi target it as a sophisticated surveillance system of the Government.
The Government was quick to deny that and Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad quickly termed Mr Gandhi’s allegation as a lie saying that data is secure.
Defence experts are also wary that the App can be used by the Pakistani spy. The Indian Army has issued a warning to its personnel against Pakistani agencies’ nefarious designs to hack the phones of Indian military personnel through a malicious application similar to the Aarogya Setu app.
“Inimical intelligence agencies have developed a malicious app by the name Aarogya Setu.apk. Such apps were found to be sent by Pakistan-based Pakistani Intelligence Operatives to WhatsApp groups of Indian Army personnel,” the Army has stated in its warning.
The app that was meant for voluntary use when it was launched in early April has been made a must for all private and government employees. If a private firm employee is found without the app on their phone, the head of the company will be held responsible, the centre has said.
“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,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted on Saturday.
Mr Gandhi adds to what some experts have said about privacy concerns over the app. They say the app needs far more data than what is necessary and falls shorts of the standards set by contact-tracing apps of other countries.
Use of GPS-based location data is a major concern, they say. The government think tank NITI Aayog has defended the use of the app and said the GPS data helps in finding new hotspots. It said the location data is not used by the app on an individual basis, but on an aggregated basis.
Anyone attending office anywhere should have the app on their mobile from May 4, the day the two-week extended lockdown kicks in, the government has said. Everyone in a COVID-19 containment zone will also have to download the app.
Those working from home, however, need not use the app. The centre has set a target of achieving 30 crore app downloads in the next few weeks.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, responding to Mr Gandhi’s criticism, said the app is a “powerful companion which protects people”.
“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!” Mr Prasad tweeted.