Mandatory use of Aarogya Setu COVID-19 contact tracing app could worsen digital exclusion in India

This statement was originally published on on 2 May 2020.

India is the only democratic country that has mandated the use of a contact tracing app for its citizens. The mandatory use of such an app will further exclude sections of the population which have been digitally excluded. The Government has gone back on its earlier promise on the Aarogya Setu app being voluntary. There is no reason for India, which is similarly placed as other countries, to do things in a way that affects the rights of citizens.

It is imperative for an app that collects the data of all citizens to be open source as this allows for its code to be audited by the developer community and security experts. The app has already been found to be vulnerable and such an app cannot be forced on the citizens risking their data and security.

Most countries have opted for a data minimalistic and decentralised approach, whereas the Aarogya Setu app goes against these accepted principles.

By mandating all employers to ensure the adoption of the app by their employees, the Government has made a mockery of the consent principle as the terms and the privacy policy of the app are now enforced on people and they do not have any choice. This raises concerns about the pandemic phase being replaced by a situation where the people are made vulnerable to threats because of the leakage of their data.

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Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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