Concerns over privacy and surveillance, Govt clarified Aarogya Setu app not used for surveillance

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NEW DELHI: Seeking to address concerns over privacy and surveillance, the government on Monday said of the nearly 10 crore users of Aarogya Setu app, less than 13,000 had actually tested positive, leading to contact tracing of people they were in touch with and the app was using bluetooth to detect emerging hotspots on a scale that was only possibly through use of technology.
The government detailed several measures taken to ensure data security. Top officials on Monday said the app had a clear data destruction policy among other measures to make it a safe and secure tool to keep citizens safe. “Location data is used in order to facilitate containment actions and to protect the community. Data for only 30 days is stored on the app and data of positive patients too is deleted from the server 60 days after the date of cure,” Ajay Sawhney, secretary, ministry of electronics and information technology and chairman of the empowered group dealing with data and technology, said.
He dwelt on the self reporting function of the app and said it helped track incidence of symptoms like cough and fevers. A higher number of people reporting “unwell” in an area immediately alerted authorities to step up surveillance. This was how budding hotspots could be identified and contained, he said.
“The privacy policy itself has several firsts compared even to the best internet services Indians use in hundreds of millions. These include automated data destruction policy, clear purpose limitation to the Covid-19 effort without exception and maximising data kept on phones, minimising data transferred to cloud,” Amitabh Kant, CEO of Niti Aayog, told TOI.
While the app requests users to share location, it has defined how location information is used — only on an anonymous or aggregate basis and for the specific purpose of identifying hotspots and it did not continuously monitor any user’s location, officials said.