New Delhi, May 8 (PTI) Advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has approached the Standing Committee on Information Technology, a parliamentary panel headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, against mandatory use of Aarogya Setu and other contact-tracing apps on privacy concerns.
The Centre has made installation of Aarogya Setu mandatory across several segments amid rising COVID-19 cases. Some states are even imposing penalty or taking legal action against people who have not installed the app.
'...we wrote to the Standing Committee for Information Technology which is actively considering the issue of 'citizens data security and privacy' on the lack of any clear legal basis or legislative framework for contact tracing apps such as Aarogya Setu,' IFF said on its website. In its letter to Tharoor, IFF has sought urgent hearing against mandatory deployment of Aarogya Setu and other such apps. The digital rights advocacy group said that states and Centre have launched several contact-tracing smartphone applications without any underlying legal legislative framework and they suffer from issues of transparency. According to IFF, the source code of the apps is not open sourced and there is lack of clarity on contract conditions and service rules for the app developers. 'This is in direct violation of the fundamental right to privacy as analysed with respect to the flagship application, Aarogya Setu which is being developed by the National Informatics Center (NIC),' the letter said.
It said that the installation of such contact tracing applications 'which cause mass surveillance' is now being made mandatory under threat of criminal penalties.
'We urge that the Committee on IT may consider the suitability of a legislative framework given the feasibility of Contact Tracing itself is under growing doubt as the mass surveillance and exclusion it will result in is certain,' IFF said.
Over 9 crore people have downloaded the Aarogya Setu app across the country. The mobile application is used by the government for contact-tracing and disseminating medical advisories to users in order to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The union home ministry has also said the mobile app will be must for people living in COVID-19 containment zones.
Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said Aarogya Setu app is 'secure' and there was no privacy breach in it, rejecting charges that it was a 'sophisticated surveillance system' that was leveraged to track citizens without their consent. PTI PRS ABM ABM