Par panel on IT to meet on June 17; To discuss Aarogya Setu app, data security

New Delhi, Jun 5 (PTI) Parliamentary panel on Information Technology is scheduled to hold a meeting on June 17 during which it will be calling officials of the information and technology ministry to get a briefing on the government's coronavirus-tracking Aarogya Setu application and related issues of data security and privacy of citizens, sources said on Friday.

According to sources, the meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT, headed by senior Congress leaders Shashi Tharoor, was to take place on June 10 but was postponed to June 17 as there was no final decision on whether the meeting could be held via video conferencing.

During the meeting, members are also likely to call representatives of the Information and broadcasting ministry to discuss the subject of ethical standards in media coverage, sources said. However,they did not elaborate.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology officials are also scheduled to be called to brief the members on the government's coronavirus-tracking Aarogya Setu application and issues of data security and privacy of citizens, sources said.

Aarogya Setu app, which has been downloaded by over 10 crore users, is deployed by the government for contact-tracing and disseminating medical advisories to users in order to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Opposition leaders, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, have raised privacy breach issues and alleged that the mobile application was a 'sophisticated surveillance system', a charge strongly rejected by IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who asserted that the Aarogya Setu app was 'secure' and there was no privacy breach in it.

According to sources, a final decision on the format of the meeting will be taken by by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu after a report from the two Secretaries-General on the overall subject of video-meetings.

The report is likely to be submitted on Tuesday, they said.

'Depending on next week's decision, the meeting on the 17th might take place by video or in person. In the latter case, arrangements will be sought to be made with the Delhi Government not to impede the work of the Parliament by preventing MPs from attending under the quarantine rules,' the note circulated by the committee secretariat said.

Tharoor, who is the chairman of the committee, has repeatedly demanded allowing parliamentary panel meetings via video conferencing.

The call for convening the meeting of the IT panel comes days after a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs convened on June 3 to discuss the coronavirus-induced lockdown was deferred after some members expressed their inability to attend it due to travel restrictions.

Chairman of the committee and senior Congress leader Anand Sharma had convened the meeting, and Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla was called to brief its members on the coronavirus-induced lockdown and issues of coordination with states. PTI ASK PYK PYK