The Government of India's mobile app for contact tracing and slowing down the spread of the novel coronavirus has gained immense popularity in just a short while.
The app on Wednesday became the fastest even to reach 50 million users -- in a record breaking 13 days. The previous record holder had been Nintendo's popular augmented reality game, Pokémon GO. The earlier record had been set in 2016, with the app clocking 50 million downloads on Google Play over 19 days.
Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant took to Twitter to announce the same.
"Telephone took 75 years to reach 50 milion users, radio 38 yrs,television 13 yrs,Internet 4 yrs, Facebook 19 months, Pokemon Go 19 days. #AarogyaSetu,India’s app to fight COVID-19 has reached 50 mn users in just 13 days-fastest ever globally for an App," he wrote.
According to a Hindustan Times report, the download frequency peaked at around 100,000 per minute even as Prime Minister Modi addressed the nation. It must be noted however that not everyone in the country has access to a smartphone or internet connectivity.
Recently the World Health Organisation had praised India for the Aarogya Setu app. However, even as government departments and bodies make the app mandatory and an increasing number of people continue to download it, those concerned with privacy-related issues are raising red flags.
According to a report by Quartz India, the data collected by the app is not very privacy-friendly. Aarogya Setu works by connecting essential health services with the people of India. It can be used for contract tracing and to flatten the curve, when it comes to the spread of the virus.
A research paper by the Internet Freedom Foundation notes that the app does not appear to have an adjunct manifesto or a website which details the project and its purpose. There is also "no formal notification in the public domain which acknowledges the constitution of this committee" the paper notes.
"The platform has been designed in a manner where datasets can be collated in centralised servers if the need arises," the report says. It adds that alongside the virus-related tracking data, the self-identification test at the beginning of registration, the app also collects a lot of personal data. The app collects the phone's location data and maintains a record of places that have been visited. It uses this data to maintain records of others the user may have come in contact with.
As of Wednesday, the death toll due to coronavirus has risen to 377 while the number of cases in the country climbed to 11,439.