One App: States developing their own Covid 19 apps will make meaningful data collection difficult

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Updated: May 22, 2020 1:38:57 PM

States relying on data to keep track of movement and infection in containment zones is laudable; indeed, had states been tracking this data earlier, a lot many infections could have been traced.

States relying on data to keep track of movement and infection in containment zones is laudable.

State governments relying on technology to beat Covid 19 would normally be a good thing, but with a line of xxx Setus from states (or at least some of them), not only is Covid 19 data gathering becoming fragmented, the credibility of the Centre’s Aarogya Setu is also taking a beating. As it is, Aarogya Setu has come under attack from privacy advocates for asking for a clutch of user data that can be used to profile a person. It certainly doesn’t help if the other Setus fall further short of ensuring privacy and security. On Tuesday, an Indian Express report highlighted that most of the 24 apps that different states have deployed have been developed by private companies. Besides having access to sensitive patient data, they have little liability in case of a breach. The report also points to Telangana’s ‘T-Covid-19’ initiative, which only provides the user with preventive care information and government advisories yet asks for location and other access.

States relying on data to keep track of movement and infection in containment zones is laudable; indeed, had states been tracking this data earlier, a lot many infections could have been traced. But, too many initiatives that lead users to question the government’s intent mar the whole process of contact tracing. It would be better for states to assess what datasets they require and let Aarogya Setu build in those developments. For instance, helpline numbers for different states can be linked with the central helpline. So, if someone tries to call, they can be redirected to their state helpline. Similarly, a test booking at nearest centres can be made via the app. This will also make contact tracing effective as all users will be logged on to one app, which can collate data.

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