- Aarogya Setu app will launch soon for Jio Phones, according to a government official cited by Reuters
- The app is in testing stages at the moment
The government is close to rolling out its coronavirus contact tracing app Aarogya Setu to Jio Phones, the popular 4G feature phones with a user base running into hundreds of millions. The app is already available for Android and iOS but has not yet been released for the KaiOS-based Jio Phone models. The Aarogya Setu app uses Bluetooth and GPS to inform users if they come in contact with any person infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus that has caused the government to announce a nation-wide lockdown since late March. However, the app is said to be a privacy risk, something the government has dismissed.
A government official cited by news wire Reuters was quoted as saying, “We are pushing it … the testing is going on.”
There’s no official date for the rollout of Aarogya Setu app for KaiOS yet. The app will be rolled to 100 million Jio Phone users, a huge figure by any standards. However, adoption will depend on the willingness of the people. For context, only 90 million of the approximately 500 million smartphone users on Android and iOS have downloaded the Aarogya Setu app.
As mentioned above, Aarogya Setu uses GPS and Bluetooth to let users know if they come in contact with an infected person. It is available in 10 languages and also gives users instructions regarding self-isolation. However, it requires users to register with their phone numbers and makes them give GPS access, the latter for obvious reasons. Activists and ethical hackers have raised several concerns regarding the violation of users’ privacy as well as the app’s security.
Apart from the phone number, Aarogya Setu asks users for information such as name, age, sex, profession, smoking status, travel history, etc. Such data is valuable for hackers and surveillance agencies, not to mention companies that want to monetise this data for illicit purposes. Moreover, the government has given no clarity regarding who can access the users’ data. And since the app is not open source, there can be no independent audit of the app. Even the way user data is stored by the app is a cause of concern since it uses a static number to identify users, instead of the more secure dynamic number that keeps changing. In fact, Aarogya Setu users’ location data has already leaked to YouTube once, according to a New York Times report.