Home False Claim Aarogya Setu App, raises a question of backdoor Surveillance

Aarogya Setu App, raises a question of backdoor Surveillance

Aarogya Setu app has been mandated by the Government of India in many places, including government and private offices, and in some public places. Its exact function is to trace coronavirus in public through the use of technology. But is it really possible to prevent the spread of a deadly pandemic though the use of a simple mobile app? What other challenges comes along with it?

First of all, a short brief about this app. It was launched by Government of India to keep track of corona virus spreading. It is available for both android and IOS devices. It has some helpful features like advisory issued for public and emergency contacts. But one thing it does is that it tracks its users location all the time. So if you ever come nearby with a person and that person in near future tests positive for corona virus, you will get a notification about it.

While all this comes in handy to track virus, but you need to think it through. This app, Aarogya Setu once installed, always runs in the background and collects your location data. If you choose to switch off your bluetooth or GPS, it will immediately notify you. This means that you are sacrificing your privacy to the government, which by the way had previously failed to keep your aadhar data safe.

So what will you do? You may answer, ‘I wont install it, it’s my phone!!’ But what if this is not an option. Yes, that is true for you if you live in Noida. A senior police officer from the Noida Police said that people will be randomly checked for the app in their phones. “Not installing the app will be considered as a violation of lockdown orders,” said a police order released in Noida. Further it could result into a penalty of 1000 rupees or 6 months in Jail.

To further add to it, a French ethical hacker Robert Baptiste who goes by the name ‘Elliot Alderson’ on 5 May said on his twitter that he found a security flaw in the app and tagged Aarogya Setu so that they can contact him in private.

To this the Aarogya Setu app released a clarification saying that no data is at risk. But is it really true?

But this wasn’t ending here. After this clarification by the team of Aarogya Setu app, the french hacker publicly disclosed the faults of the app in his own article. Here he clarifies how anyone can use this app to find number of sick person, anywhere and in any range. So basically, you could point it to a specific location and adjust the radius to check

  • Number of infected people
  • Number of unwell people
  • Number of people declared as bluetooth positive
  • Number of self assesment made around you
  • Number of people using the app around you

Further he claimed that the purpose of app is not to know location of ill patients. But isn’t thats why we were supposed to download it in first place. Then what else this app is doing? And for those who said that the issues were not really there, he even clarified that those issues were there and fixed. So if we consider that team of Aarogya Setu were responsible enough to fix these issues, how come they were not fixed before!!

And soon he started getting messages from India regarding different opinions. For some privacy is not an issue to worry about, but then it’s everyone’s right. He basically believes that Aarogya Setu app is a surveillance system owned by government which constantly sends your data and location to their centralised servers. Some may agree with him, some may have different opinions but we should not forget that Right To Privacy is a part of Indian Constitution.

The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.

We don’t know if we have to believe a French Hacker claiming that the privacy and personal data of millions of smartphone users in India is at risk or a team of app developers who are just not ready to open source the code of an app which is continuously collecting data of its users.

After all, Privacy isn’t that big thing!! Right???

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