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Downloaded Aarogya Setu app yet, know who can access your data?

Know what is happening with your personal information from Aarogya Setu app

The Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology on Monday issued a data sharing and knowledge-sharing protocol for the Aarogya Setu app. Guidelines were laid for sharing such data with the agencies related to government and third parties. Before this, the only legal shield was the privacy policy of the app.

The executive order issued on Monday came after rising concerns regarding the data security and efficacy of the app. Experts think that the decision of such nature should be backed by a personal data protection bill. The personal data protection bill is currently in the process of getting approved by the parliament in our country.

Why government issued these guidelines?

The executive order by IT secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney says that data pertaining to individuals is required in order to formulate appropriate health responses to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The ‘individuals’ meant people who are on high risk of being infected, people who are infected and who have come in contact with infected individuals.

To fulfil this purpose and ensure that the data is collected from the Aarogya Setu app, the government issued these guidelines. The order says that Various statement and advisories have been issued by Government of India, the Ministry of health and family welfare, and other Ministries of the Government of India and State/Union Territory Governments on measures of precautions such as treatment of individuals who are affected or at-risk and social distancing. To ensure the effective implementation, there is a need to ensure data and information sharing among the different ministries of government and departments as well as those in the State/Union Territory Governments.

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Which data can be collected?

The data accumulated by India’s contact tracing app is broadly divided into four categories- demographic data, self-assessment data, contact data and location data. Collectively, these data are called response data. Demographic data includes information related to name, age, gender, mobile number, travel history and profession. Contact data is about any individual who has come in closer proximity with other individuals including the proximate distance between the individuals, duration of contact and the geographical location where the contact took place. Self-assessment data is the data provided by the app users during the self-assessment test administered within the app. Location data is the geographical position of the individual who is using the app.

Who sees your data?

As per the protocol, the response data gathered by the app containing personal information may be shared by the app’s developer, National Informatics Centre (NIC) with the Health Ministry, Department of Health in state/UT governments/ local governments, state disaster management authorities, National disaster management authority, other departments and ministries of state and central governments, and other health institutions of the state, central and local governments. Here data shared is to be used to directly implement or formulate an appropriate health response.

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The protocol also says that the data can be shared with third parties but again only for directly formulating and implementing appropriate health response. For research, the data can be shared with research institutions, Indian universities or research entities registered in India. The guidelines state that such research entities and universities can share the data with other such institutions.

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