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Sharing details of people in quarantine invasion of privacy: Activists


Press Trust of India New Delhi
Sharing details of people under quarantine with public is invasion of privacy and no personal data shall be used to discriminate any individual in the future, a group of non-profit organisations, social activist, professionals etc under aegis of SFLC said in a letter to the union ministers.
Delhi-based non-profit legal services organisation in the letter to Home Minister Amit Shah, health minister Harsh Vardhan and IT and Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that all measures related to the public emergency response to COVID-19 should be temporary in nature and limited in scope and should not become permanent features of governance.
"Any collection, processing of personal data, including health data, shall be necessary and proportionate for the purpose of combating the pandemic and public health. In some states, the list of persons who are under quarantine have been made public in the guise of public monitoring. This is excessive and a disproportionate invasion into the privacy of the individuals under quarantine, SFLC said in a statement.
Karnaraka and Tamil Nadu governments have developed GPS-based monitoring of people under self-quarantine to check spread of deadly coronavirus. The details are shared with direct and secondary contact of the person in home quarantine for them to remain alert and keep watch on their health.
SFLC voluntary legal director Prasanth Sugathan said that although this is an extraordinary situation, care should be taken to ensure that the personal information of individuals are handled securely and with due care respecting their privacy rights.
"Any measure adopted for public health purpose should be the least intrusive and should not violate the privacy rights of individuals. Publishing of route maps and contact tracing should be done without publishing the personal details of patients," he said.
The number of coronavirus cases climbed to 1,397 on Tuesday after 146 new infections were reported in the past 24 hours across the country, while the death toll rose to 35, according to the Union Health Ministry.
SFLC said the personal data collected for the purpose of public health should only be retained during the response to the pandemic and deleted automatically without maintaining any copies, once the pandemic has been declared to be over.
It said that the security protections for data processing during the covid-19 pandemic should not be compromised and the data must be maintained securely and must be exchanged only through secure platforms and hardware.
"Any apps related to covid-19 promoted by the Government should be secure and their data collection should be in tune with the principles mentioned herein. Any surveillance required to respond to the pandemic should be temporary and only to the extent and degree allowed by provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the rules notified under these statutes," the letter said.
The organisations who have signed are CCAOI, Digital Empowerment Foundation, Free Software Movement of India, Internet Democracy Project, Internet Freedom Foundation, Internet Society-Delhi Chapter, IT For Change, and Swathanthra Malayalam Computing.
The active COVID-19 cases stands at 1,238, while 123 people were either cured or discharged and one had migrated.
Government imposed a 21 day lockdown in the country starting March 24 to contain the deadly disease for which there is no vaccine at present.
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba on Friday asked all the states to effectively monitor 15 lakh international air passengers who came from January 18 to March 23. He said that there appears to be a gap between the actual monitoring for covid-19 and the total arrivals.

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First Published: Mar 31 2020 | 10:26 PM IST

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