Workers sign petition urging govt to issue advisory clarifying that 'Aarogya Setu' app isn't mandatory

While launched as a voluntary measure, the app was recently made compulsory for Prasar Bharti and Indian Army employees.

On 2 April, the government launched Aarogya Setu, a contact tracing app aimed at helping track and control the spread of COVID-19 in the country. The app uses Bluetooth and location data on a user's device to track their movement. If they are ever tested positive for COVID-19, anyone who has come in close contact with them in the last 14 days — and has Aarogya Setu on their phone — will be notified. The app also has details on the closest test centres and quarantine centres. It also lets users do a quick self-assessment through a chatbot.

This app was launched as a voluntary measure. However, it was soon made compulsory for employees of Prasar Bharti and the Indian Armed Forces. More recently, the government also made the app mandatory for all central government employees. A report also suggests that Aarogya Setu may come pre-installed on all new smartphones.

Aarogya Setu app on iOS

Aarogya Setu app on iOS

This has moved workers across 37 organisations, including "labour unions, and 75 prominent individuals", to sign a petition urging the government to release an advisory clarifying that the Aarogya Setu app cannot be made mandatory, according to Internet Freedom Foundation.

Additionally, the petition also recommends that financial relief, protective equipment, and healthcare coverage be given to gig workers during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Since its launch, the Aarogya Setu app has been criticized for failing to comply with data protection laws like consent, purpose limitation, data minimisation, transparency, and accountability.

The Internet Freedom Foundation recently published a working paper on the security issues in the Aarogya Setu app.

You can find the complete list of signatories (organisations and individuals) here.

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