Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday raised data security and privacy concerns over the Aarogya Setu mobile application. Gandhi said that the COVID-19 tracking app is a sophisticated surveillance system.
Taking to Twitter, the Wayanad MP wrote, "The Arogya Setu app, is a sophisticated surveillance system, outsourced to a pvt operator, with no institutional oversight - raising serious data security & privacy concerns. Technology can help keep us safe; but fear must not be leveraged to track citizens without their consent."
Following Rahul Gandhi's concerns, a French Android applications developer and cyber security expert, using the moniker Elliot Alderson, felt obliged to check into the Modi government app himself.
Alderson began his 'tests' and asked for a valid Indian phone number which has never been used to create an account on the Aarogya Setu app.
Three hours later, Alderson was back with a 'verdict' and tagged the Twitter account of Aarogya Setu, asking them to 'DM' him.
"A security issue has been found in your app. The privacy of 90 million Indians is at stake. Can you contact me in private?" wrote Alderson.
The hacker also mentioned that Rahul Gandhi was right.
Aarogya Setu, a coronavirus tracking app, launched by the Union Health Ministry on April 2 has been downloaded by 90 million people so far.
Developed by the National Informatics Centre, a part of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the app helps users identify whether they are at a risk of COVID-19 infection.
The mobile app uses phone location and Bluetooth sensors to detect user's movements. If two people, who have installed the app, come in close proximity with each other and if one of them happens to be at a risk of the coronavirus infection, the other person will be immediately informed by a notification on his/her mobile phone. The app also provides precautionary measures that people can use to stay safe amidst the pandemic.
The Google Play description reads, "Aarogya Setu is a mobile application developed by the Government of India to connect essential health services with the people of India in our combined fight against COVID-19. The App is aimed at augmenting the initiatives of the Government of India, particularly the Department of Health, in proactively reaching out to and informing the users of the app regarding risks, best practices and relevant advisories pertaining to the containment of COVID-19."
The app is available in 11 languages and is available on both Android as well as iOS devices.