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Aarogy Setu app is safe: Govt

IVRS service launched for those with feature phones and landlines
Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad
Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad
File photo

PTI   |   New Delhi   |   Published 06.05.20, 01:11 PM

The coronavirus tracking app Aarogya Setu was 'secure' and there was no privacy breach in it, Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Wednesday, rejecting charges that it was a 'sophisticated surveillance system' that was leveraged to track citizens without their consent.

The government's assertion came a day after French hacker and cyber security expert, 'Elliot Alderson', had claimed that 'a security issue has been found' in the app and that 'privacy of 90 million Indians is at stake'.

Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asserted that the platform was “absolutely robust, safe and secure” in terms of privacy protection and data security.

The response came after a French hacker and cyber security expert, “Elliot Alderson”, on Tuesday claimed that “a security issue has been found” in the Aarogya Setu app and that “privacy of 90 million Indians is at stake”.

The Centre had on Friday made it mandatory for government and private sector employees to use the Aarogya Setu mobile application to bolster the efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, and entrusted organisational heads with ensuring its 100 per cent coverage.

The health ministry said the user, upon installation of the application, is asked to answer a number of questions. 

“The data will then help the government take timely steps and initiate the isolation procedure if necessary, and it also alerts if someone comes in close proximity with a person who has tested positive,” the statement said. Using GPS (global positioning system), the app helps in tracking the movement of Covid-19 patients within coronavirus hotspots. However, many have maintained that the application captures more information than necessary. 

The application is available on both Google Play and the iOS App Store. It is available in 10 Indian languages and English, the ministry added. 

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had alleged that the app is a 'sophisticated surveillance system, outsourced to a private operator, with no institutional oversight', raising serious data security and privacy concerns. 

IVRS launched

The Aarogy Setu interactive voice response system has been launched to reach out to those with feature phones and landline connections, the Union health ministry said.

The IVRS is a toll-free service available across the country. Citizens can give a missed call to the number 1921, following which they will get a call back requesting for inputs regarding their health, the ministry said in a statement.

“The questions asked are aligned with the Aarogy Setu app, and based on the responses given, citizens will also get a text message with an assessment of their health and further alerts for improving it,” it said.

The toll-free service is available in 11 regional languages.

The inputs provided by citizens will be made part of the Aarogy Setu database and the information will be processed to send alerts to people on the action to be taken to ensure their safety, it said.

The health ministry has urged people to download the mobile application, saying it will enable them to assess the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.

Nearly nine crore users have downloaded the Aarogya Setu mobile application so far, a ministry official said.



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