CIRCA:Aarogya Setu App


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Brief Description

[1] is a government of India backed mobile application which has already become the most downloaded healthcare app in the world. It has features for contact tracing, self-assessment of the user’s present health status, and informs those at-risk through notifications of the appropriate actions to be taken. The app, when installed on any smartphone, interacts through the Bluetooth interface of the device with that of another smartphone in its vicinity (the Bluetooth signal range), whereby encrypted tokens are exchanged. The app also collects GPS location data of the phone at periodic intervals.

Some numbers about Aarogya Setu App

Till 14th Oct 2021, • 34,020,730 confirmed cases. 206586 active cases. 33362709 discharged or recovered. 451435 deaths. • Over 200 Million downloads through Apple app store, Google Play and KaiOS.

New Updates

Since the start of 2021, as India started rolling out vaccination in a phased manner, there were some changes to the Aarogya Setu App. A whole new Icon related to vaccinations as introduced, which made it easier for the user to view where and when the next vaccine slot is available. It also links you forward to another site named ‘cowin’, which is specifically designed as a vaccination portal.

Privacy Concerns

• Using GPS and Bluetooth : Aarogya Setu uses the phone’s bluetooth and GPS to track the user’s movement, making it more invasive than other such apps. While the government says the data is anonymised and scrubbed of personally identifiable detail, the Software Freedom Law Center pointed to a vague clause in the privacy policy which could “lead to excessive collection and use of sensitive personal data.”

• The lifespan of the app and its data systems : The Guardian’s Hannah Ellis-Petersen wrote: “Unlike in most other countries, there is no transparency on the limitations on the lifespan of database and no binding policy that it will not be repurposed after the pandemic.”

• Data breach : In April, a New York Times report said the app had exposed some users’ location data to YouTube. Google told the NYT that the app seemed to have inadvertently sent location data and that YouTube would delete it. While the government admitted to fixing the issue, it did not explain exactly how many users had been affected by the breach.

• No Liability : SFLC notes that the the liability clause in the app’s Terms of Service exempts the Government from liability in the event of “any unauthorised access to the (user’s) information or modification thereof”, meaning there is no liability for the Government even if personal information of users is leaked. It also limits the government’s liability if the app provides inaccurate information or shows false positives.

Effectiveness of Aorgya Setu App

According to the Government of India, based on preliminary data, it was found that among the Aarogya Setu app users who were recommended testing, 24% were found COVID-19 positive, nearly fivefold higher compared to the overall COVID-19 positivity rate in the country. The app is also helping civic authorities of the country to identify the disease trends and map containment zones within their cities. Health and technology experts believe Aarogya Setu has had limitations in its ability to contact-trace from the beginning, and has little value in Covid management today.

Aarogya Setu (India) and Covid Alert (Canada)

• According to a study , Covid Alert received better rating than Aarogya Setu in relation to privacy, transparency, data management, and security.

• The effectiveness comes into question as India has a high response rate. Canada has a low response rate, this could partly be because customer complaints are more likely to warrant a response from the developer, leading to a larger number of responses to application.

• In addition, the approach taken by the nation towards promoting the application could also play a part in the response rate.

• India has relatively low technology literacy, the application was made necessary for various travel processes. Therefore, the application had to engage with its users and ensure that any difficulties in using the application be sorted out. Such interventions may not have been necessary in Canada, where the application was entirely voluntary.


  6. COVIDTAS COVID-19 Tracing App Scale – MDPI › pdf
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