Rejecting charges by the opposition that the Aarogya Setu application breaches privacy, Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has asserted that the platform is “absolutely robust, safe and secure” in terms of privacy protection and data security.

“This is a technological invention of India — Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, our scientists, NIC, NITI Aayog, and some private (entities) — whereby it is a perfectly accountable platform to help in the fight against COVID-19,” Prasad told PTI.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has alleged that the Aarogya Setu app is a “sophisticated surveillance system, outsourced to a private operator, with no institutional oversight.”

He also said it raises serious data security and privacy concerns.

“Technology can help keep us safe; but fear must not be leveraged to track citizens without their consent,” Gandhi had said.

Countering the claim, Prasad said, “It is safe and secure. The data is in an encrypted form. Most important, it is for safety of Indians in public interest because it cautions you in the event there is a COVID-infected person in your vicinity.”

The minister said the mobile application also helps tracing contacts in the event a person is infected.
“It is a very robust invention of technology and many other countries are using similar applications to fight COVID-19. And the second most important point is that the data is limited. Routine data remains for 30 days and in the event you are infected, then (for) 45 to 60 days. Then automatically it will vanish,” he explained.

Prasad said there is always an option to scratch the app out of the phone or uninstall it.

“Then what is this hangama all about. The country has understood its utility and has willingly accepted it,” he said.

The Aarogya Setu app is for smartphones.

“For feature phones we have developed Aarogya Setu IVRS. The app is absolutely robust in terms of privacy protection and safety and security of data,” he said.

It is now mandatory for all government and private sector employees attending office to download the app, according to a Union Home Ministry directive.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been urging people to download the Aarogya Setu app, saying it is a fantastic use of technology to combat coronavirus.

“Tracks the spread of COVID-19 and notifies you if someone around you is suffering from it. Also lists help-desk numbers of various states,” he had said in a series of tweets last month.

Meanwhile, the government on Wednesday said no data or security breach has been identified in Aarogya Setu after an ethical hacker raised concerns about a potential security issue in the app.

On Tuesday, 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”.

Dismissing the claims, the government said “no personal information of any user has been proven to be at risk by this ethical hacker”.

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