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Covid-19 app Aarogya Setu mandatory for all employees, says govt

Aarogya app alerts users who may have come in contact with people later found to be positive for Covid-19 or deemed to be at high risk

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Coronavirus | indian government | Lockdown

BS Web Team & Agencies  |  New Delhi 

Aarogya Setu app
The app's compulsory use is raising concerns among privacy advocates, who say it is unclear how the data will be used and who stress that India lacks privacy laws to govern the app

Aarogya Setu, the government's Covid-19-tracing app, has to be used in state-owned and private offices and employers will have to ensure it is.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday said India would extend its nationwide control measures for another two weeks from May 4 to battle the spread of that causes the Covid-19 illness, but allow "considerable relaxations" in lower-risk districts.

As part of its efforts to fight the deadly virus, government last month launched the app Aarogya Setu, meaning Health Bridge, a Bluetooth and GPS-based system developed by the country's Informatics Centre. The app alerts users who may have come in contact with people later found to be positive for Covid-19 or deemed to be at high risk.

"Use of Aarogya Setu shall be made mandatory for all employees, both private and public," the MHA said in a directive late on Friday.

It will be the responsibility of the heads of companies and organisations "to ensure 100 per cent coverage of this app among the employees," the ministry said.

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Officials at India's technology ministry and a lawyer who framed the privacy policy for Aarogya Setu told Reuters the app needs to be on at least 200 million phones for it to be effective in the country of 1.3 billion people.

The app has been downloaded around 50 million times on Android phones, which dominate India's smartphone user base of 500 million, according to Google Play Store data.

The app's compulsory use is raising concerns among privacy advocates, who say it is unclear how the data will be used and who stress that India lacks privacy laws to govern the app.

"Such a move should be backed by a dedicated law which provides strong data protection cover and is under the oversight of an independent body," said Udbhav Tiwari, Public Policy Advisor for internet company Mozilla.

New Delhi has said the app will not infringe on privacy as all data is collected anonymously.

The app can help authorities identify virus hotspots and better-target health efforts, the tech ministry told Reuters in late April, adding that information on the app is used "only for administering necessary medical interventions".

On Friday, the government said that offices re-opening will also have to implement measures like gaps between shifts and staggered lunch breaks to contain spread of the that has infected 3.3 million worldwide and caused more than 230,000 deaths.

India has reported over 37,000 cases and 1,218 deaths from the virus.

First Published: Sat, May 02 2020. 14:22 IST
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