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Contact tracing feature of Aarogya Setu disabled, data deleted

All contact tracing data collected through the Aarogya Setu mobile application to locate potential cases of Covid-19 during the fight against the pandemic has been deleted, the Union government informed Parliament on Wednesday.

It added that the contact tracing feature of the mobile application, whose usage gave rise to several security-related concerns, has been disabled.

The information was shared by minister of state for electronics and information technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, in Lok Sabha in response to a series of queries by Congress MP Amar Singh related to the mobile application.

Singh sought details of the current legislation governing the data collected via the application and whether the data collected by it till May 10, 2022, was deleted in accordance with the Aarogya Setu Data Access and Knowledge Sharing Protocol, 2020.

In his response, Chandrasekhar said: “The National Executive Committee constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005,… issued an order dated 29.3.2020 constituting, among others, an empowered group on technology and data management to identify problem areas and provide effective solutions… and take all necessary steps for effective and time-bound implementation of these plans… in relation to Covid-19 pandemic. As per a decision of the empowered group, its chairperson issued an order dated 11.5.2020, notifying the Aarogya Setu Data Access and Knowledge Sharing Protocol, 2020, to ensure secure collection of data by the Aarogya Setu mobile application, protection of personal data of individuals and the efficient use and sharing of personal or non-personal data for mitigation and redressal of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

He added: “In accordance with the provisions of the said protocol, the contact tracing feature of the Aarogya Setu mobile application has been discontinued and contact tracing data collected through it has been deleted.”

The minister also said that “approved officials of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, State Health Departments, the National and State Disaster Management Authorities and District Civil Surgeons were given secure access to the data collected through the Aarogya Setu.”

The Aarogya Setu app was developed in early 2020 to trace close contact between people so that they can be reached in the event any of them is infected with Covid-19. The process required users to declare their mobile numbers, name, gender, age, and whether they belong to a set of high-risk professions, such as law enforcement or health care.

The application then routinely asked people to “self-assess” their health by answering questions such as whether they have any of the symptoms associated with Covid-19 or if they have a history of diabetes, hypertension or obesity – factors that make people more susceptible to the disease.

Cybersecurity experts and former intelligence officials, however, raised concerns over a possible breach of data of millions of Indians by adversarial state and non-state actors.

Indian government officials had dismissed the concerns, saying their encryption standards have adequate protection against data or network breaches.

According to government officials, at least 218.2 million people signed up on it. At one point, it was made mandatory for office-goers as well as those who were taking a flight. HindustanTimes

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