Aarogya Setu 'most secure app', says government amid privacy concerns
The government on Monday said the COVID-19 contact tracing app Aarogya Setu is the "most secure app." The government said that only the data of those users who test positive for COVID-19 is used by the app and it is wiped after a period of time. The clarification came after a French cybersecurity expert raised concerns with the app over "security and privacy issues."
Speaking at a press briefing on Monday, Ajay Sahni, Chairperson of Empowered Group-9, said, "Of all the apps that you use, Aarogya Setu has been designed to be the most secure." The Empowered Group deals with technology and data management in India's fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Sahni added, "There is no possibility of surveillance or misuse of the app."
Sahni said that Aarogya Setu has been downloaded on 9.8 crore smartphones. He said that only Bluetooth and location data of 13,000 users, who tested positive for COVID-19, is being used. "The rest of the data will remain secure on your devices," he said. He added, "The government is only using this data for health intervention. Your personal identity is not revealed to anybody."
Sahni said each user is identified using only an assigned randomized anonymous device ID. It was also revealed during the presser that all unique interactions are only stored for 30 days on the device. For non-risk users, the data on the server is deleted after 45 days and for COVID-19 patients, it is deleted after 60 days from the date of recovery.
Sahni said that from the data of the 13,000 coronavirus-positive users, the government has managed to trace 1.37 lakh persons who came in touch with them. He also said the government has been able to identify 697 potential hotspots with the help of the app.
At the presser, Union Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal denied reports of religion-based mapping of the outbreak. He said, "This is a very irresponsible piece of news," adding that the disease does not discriminate on the basis of people's caste, creed or religion Agarwal also that India has not reached the community transmission stage yet.
When asked if India had reached the community transmission stage, Agarwal said, "There are a few clusters and at some locations, relatively large outbreaks have been identified." He added, "If we don't contain these, the transmission rate will become higher. Right now, it is important for us to focus on our containment efforts and ensure that we do not enter the community transmission stage."