THE NEUTRAL ZONE
On May 12, India made the use of a contact tracing app called Aarogya Setu, which means “healthcare bridge” in Hindi, mandatory for all railway travelers. The app, which was voluntary when it was originally launched, is designed to collect user data in order to trace the spread of coronavirus in India. The app will be made available on Iakh Jio phones starting on May 15.
Since its launch on April 2, Aarogya Setu has surpassed an unprecedented 100 million users in just two months. According to MIT Technology Review’s Covid Tracing Tracker, India is the only democratic nation to have implemented a mandatory tracking system for its citizens. On May 1, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs issued a mandate requiring all citizens within Red or Orange Containment Zones (designated by case numbers) sign into the app.
Privacy advocates have expressed alarm regarding the app, in part due to it not being open source and the terms of service “impos[ing] a blanket restriction on reverse engineering.” Those restrictions prevent the ability to perform independent audits. On May 13, a Bangalore-based software engineer hacked Aarogya Setu and was able to “bypass a page that requested personal information like name, age, gender, travel history, and COVID-19 symptoms.” He also disabled the Bluetooth and GPS requirements, “two things without which the app can’t function.”
India follows China’s lead to widen use of coronavirus tracing app – Reuters – 5/14/2020
India is aggressively pushing a state-backed contact tracing app to fight the spread of COVID-19, raising fears that the world’s second-most populous nation is on its way to Chinese-style methods of high tech social control.
Aarogya Setu key to making transition into post-lockdown period smooth, prevent loss of lives; doubts about privacy, security unnecessary – Firstpost – 5/14/2020
In controlling the pandemic, time is critical and any delay in medical interventions could further lead to a delay in flattening the infection rate and potentially causing more loss of lives and economy. Countries like South Korea and China used sophisticated surveillance systems (video, telecom) to the best possible extent and are successful in controlling the pandemic. The fear of surveillance in today’s time of Google and thousands of applications that track user movement is overblown.
Contact tracing app Aarogya Setu crosses 100M users amid privacy concerns – YourStory – 5/13/2020
The Ministry of Civil Aviation is also believed to make Aarogya Setu compulsory for airline passengers once domestic flight operations resume. Despite the relentless push from the government and state authorities, Aarogya Setu has come under attack from security researchers and even opposition parties for the privacy risks it poses. Cybersecurity analysts have even called on the Indian government to make the application open source.
Aarogya Setu app mandatory for travel on 15 special trains: Railways – The Hindu – 5/12/2020
The railways on Tuesday said it was mandatory for those travelling via the 15 ‘special trains’ to download the government’s Aarogya Setu mobile application. The announcement, made through a tweet after May 11 midnight, comes even as the guidelines issued by the railways on Monday said that all passengers were “advised” to download and use the app.
MIT Technology Review on Twitter, 5/14/2020: Millions of Indians are being forced to download the country’s coronavirus tracking app. It’s a line no other democracy has yet crossed in the fight against covid-19.
PranavDixit on Twitter, 5/14/2020: A public health worker raised an important point about mandatory Aarogya Setu here: “[It] marks all health workers as high risk. If they are blocked from entering apartment complexes, hospitals, or offices, how will patients be treated? How will contacts be traced manually?”
Global Health Strategies on Twitter, 5/14/2020: Latest #coronavirus updates from India -78,003 cases & 2,549 deaths as of 14 May
– India’s case count set to surpass China’s tally
– Cases in India rose nearly 10 percent in two days
—#COVID19 deaths have roughly doubled since 3 May
Chhavi on Twitter, 5/14/2020: Can someone challenge this in court and get a stay order already! Aarogya Setu App And E-Pass Could Become Key For Interstate Travel And Movement in India