Is Aarogya Setu a challenge to the Democracy? Experts say so

India is now the only democracy to force using a tracker app. And millions have to download it to keep their jobs. What do experts have to say about this?
aarogya setu

Aarogya Setu app has now crossed 100 million users. There are many apps which have far more users than that, but Aarogya Setu was released two months ago. Even though the growth of the app is unprecedented, here is the catch; you might get fined, lose your job, or even go to jail if you don’t install the app.

We expected to touch 50 million users by April 15 but reached it a day before. There were 11 million downloads on Tuesday, which is the sharpest single-day surge in installations since the app was launched. PM Modi’s announcement led to a spike that peaked at 100,000 registrations per minute in the afternoon, at around 20,000 downloads per minute on average over the rest of the day,” said Arnab Kumar, who is part of the team who developed the app. The app massed around 50 million users in 13 days, beating Pokemon Go record of 50 million in 19 days.

India is the only democracy that is making its app mandatory for millions of users, according to MIT Technology Review’s COVID Tracing Tracker. According to the officials, downloading the app is voluntary. But the government employees are obliged to use it, while private-sector employers are mandating it as well. In the city of Noida, you can be either fined or even jailed if you haven’t downloaded the app.

Rahul Gandhi, a member of the Indian Parliament and leader of the current opposition Indian National Congress can be criticising the app, saying the app has “no institutional oversight” and raises “serious data security and privacy concerns.”

The down comings of the Aarogya Setu app

First and foremost, India has no national data privacy law, and it is not clear who and when can be the data of the app accessed. The list of developers aren’t public, and the app lacks a robust and transparent policy or design limitation on accessing or using the data at this point. Arnab strongly says that the app data is strictly controlled and is build according to standards of the data privacy bill that is currently in the country’s Parliament. But Indian government mandates its apps’ codes will be open source and public, which Aarogya Setu isn’t. Kumar has said that it will be made open-source down the line but hasn’t given any expected date or timeline yet.

data privacy

Now there is some recent news which reports that the app might come preinstalled in smartphones soon, and another report stating that app might be required to travel. So it is very unclear how far the government might go with this.

It is necessary to have actions from the Indian government to ensure that the data and privacy of the citizens are protected and to spread more light into the concern of the mandatory usage of the app.

Note: This article is inspired by the Patrick Howell O’Neill. Read his full view on the subject here.