Personal Finance

All you need to know about Aarogya Setu app

Bavadharini KS | Updated on May 17, 2020

The Centre’s coronavirus contact-tracing app aims to keep a tab on citizens’ health

With the number of coronavirus infections rising in India, the Centre has implemented various initiatives to contain the spread of the virus.

One such initiative is the Aarogya Setu app. This is a mobile application that can be downloaded in both Android and iOS smartphones.

The contact-tracing app launched by the government aims to keep a tab on the health of the citizens.

Through the app, the Department of Health gives regular updates on the Covid-19 outbreak and the hotspots. It also informs the users about risks, best practices and relevant advisories.

App basics

On downloading the app, you need to select your preferred language from 12 options. Upon opening, it asks for permission to access Bluetooth and the location on your phone. The location access will alert you if you are in a region where any individual has tested positive for coronavirus.

Using the Bluetooth as a proximity sensor, it alerts you if you are within close range of an infected person.

Also, the location helps map the areas an individual visited if he/she has tested positive (contact-tracing).

Next is registering your mobile number. After this step, the app requests for some basic information about you and adds the same to its database.

This includes name, age, gender, health status, travel history in the past one month, and nature of employment — if the user works in fields such as policing, healthcare services, delivery, manufacturer, pharmacy. It also asks if the user will be willing to volunteer in time of need.

Next, the app prompts you to take a self-assessment regarding your health condition.

Lastly, the app checks if you show any symptoms of Covid-19 or whether you interacted with anyone with the infection.

In case you’re a doctor or police officer, the app will ask if you were exposed to Covid-19 individuals.

Depending on the answers, the app will suggest what should be done next.

It could be self-isolation or contacting a health official.

How does it work?

Aarogya Setu’s objective is to collect information from various users across the country to form a database that can alert citizens and the government of potential victims of coronavirus.

Consider an example. You go to a pharmacy where there is another individual buying medicines and he too has the Aarogya Setu app installed on his phone.

So, when two smartphones with the app installed come in each other’s Bluetooth range, the app will exchange information. If the other individual has been tested positive for the virus or is unwell, you will be alerted about the same.

These potential cases are alerted to the health officials as well for further testing.

The app collects all these details to gauge your risk level for infection.

Based on the self-assessment of your health conditions, the app shows the risk level in green (safe or low risk of infection) or yellow (you are at high risk).

If you continue to feel unwell or fall in the category of high risk, you can contact the helpline. This way, even health officials can keep a track of possible new infections.

The app also offers suggestions for containing the virus and health tips for prevention such as physical distancing, staying home and other safety measures.

The app can also give a warning if anyone enters a high-risk zone.

Further, the app is integrated with a digital pass system. That is, when an e-pass is issued to an individual for inter-State or inter-district travelling, the movement can be monitored for potential spread of infection.

Should you go for it?

While the Centre is insisting that everyone download the app, it is not mandatory to do so. But if you would like to share your data and receive pandemic-related updates , you may download the app.

Like any other mobile applications, Aarogya Setu, too, collects personal information, including name, phone number, age and individual’s current medical condition.

Further, the app collects your location information continuously.

While the privacy policy of the app goes into some detail on where, when and how long the data will be retained, it is vague on who will have access to the data.

Recently, a French ethical hacker, Elliot Alderson, had tweeted about Aarogya Setu app’s security issues, citing that it can be hacked easily, thereby revealing the identities of users, irrespective of whether the person is infected by the virus or feels unwell.

However, the Centre said that the platform is secure and safe to use.

According to its statement, the users’ data are collected when they submit the data voluntarily through the app or when the app fetches data after he/she is tested coronaviruspositive.

The user can make a choice to share the data or not.

Due diligence

If you have decided to download the app, here are a few things you can do.

If you are among the individuals who would stay put at home, you might as well turn off the Bluetooth and location settings of the application.

It’s only when you move out that it is necessary.

Further, if you your frequently visited places or your city is declared safe, you can uninstall the app.

Your data thus far collected shall be deleted permanently from the database within 180 days from the date on which it was collected.

Also, information collected will be purged from the server within 45 days if a person has not tested positive for Covid-19.

The app also has FAQs on privacy of user data, but read the entire privacy terms in the app to know what data is collected and when.

Published on May 17, 2020

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