AAROGYA SETU Application:
By- Madhav Maheshwari
It is not much of a time since India retained a spot in the world’s top three surveillance states list along with China & Russia.
According to UK based firm Compritech research reports, India scored 2.4 out of 5 on systematic failure to maintain privacy safeguards.
A user’s biometric data is what threatens the privacy most and storing these critical and sensitive data makes it even more hazardous and in extreme circumstances, the data can be unwillingly used against the individual itself.
The Indian constitution guarantees the fundamental right to privacy but Indians overall fail to attain even average privacy norms. The Indian government was in hot light a few months back for allowing 10 government agencies to authorize, to decrypt, monitor, and intercept data on any computer, and on the other hand, Indian lawmakers framing privacy laws which makes it more doubtful and hypocritical.
In these times of COVID-19, you might lose your confidential data for a lifetime see how.
The central government recently launched an application aarogya setu with astonishing features like digitally detecting and tracking down COVID-19 patients with a hidden feature of surveilling its users through the data restored from the smartphone. The app has recently been made mandatory in some parts of the country and even shortly one might not able to travel without having the application.
The app claims to keep us safe by spying on us. The consequences will be an individual losing autonomy.
What is at stake?
The population of India is 2nd largest. The privacy advocates are worried because the country lacks a data protection framework (which is still in making due to bureaucratic errors). With a population of such numbers how the govt. is going to make sure to keep the data safe while also considering an individual’s privacy without even having any sufficient laws in place.
The privacy advocates want to ensure that the govt. stored data will be deleted and won’t be integrated further but there are only such assurances that the application will shred the data after the pandemic is dealt with, but no legal guarantees.
The data of over 90 million people is at stake and the risk of surveillance from the state.
( The contradictories to the above statement might want to check India’s score on privacy index)
what’s more daunting is that the application was first made mandatory for public sector employees and afterward private sector and employers are the ones to keep a strong check on the presence of the app on the employee’s smartphones, though no one is held to be accountable in case of breach or misuse.
What makes the app even more distrustful?
Recently the central government released advisories with regards to the usage of the app by army personnel. It directed the army personnel to be more cautious and careful while using aarogya setu app. This raised many alarms, one of which is the government is possibly aware of the threats the app poses and how much more vulnerable and convenient it becomes to breach the data of millions of Indians.
Merely stating that data is secure is not much of a good job. The app can become just the tool to track dissenting voices and for monitoring and surveillance.
Many watchdogs argue that the use of any privacy-violating technology must be following the standards stated in the landmark judgment of Puttaswamy:
– Must have a legislative backing
– Pursue legitimate claim
– Rational method to achieve the aim
– There must not be any less restrictive alternatives
– Benefits must outweigh the harm
However, The right to privacy can only be infringed following the law and not without it, and in this case, there lacks legislative power to make this application mandatory.
There are even possibilities that the app might come pre-installed in all the new smartphones post COVID-19 period. The government is looking to expand the scope of surveillance.
The COVID-19 pandemic is putting individual privacy at stake. It will wash away privacy in the name of public health.
However, there are legislations that are setting examples like EU’S GDPR which is in the process to establish accountability and to legally ensure the temporary purpose of storing the data in Europe.