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MIT researchers review Aaorgya Setu app, give it 2 points out of 5

The researchers said that although the app has scored positive points for its timely deletion of data, it "failed to score on voluntary use, limitations of data usage, and transparency."

twitter-logoAnkita Chakravarti | May 11, 2020 | Updated 15:34 IST

Highlights

  • Indian contact tracing app Aaorgya Setu has been rated two out of five by the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • The Aarogya Setu app,  which has now over 100 million users in India, was compared to the contact tracing apps of 25 countries.
  • The MIT researchers in their review said that India’s Aarogya Setu app is unique in many ways.

Indian contact tracing app Aaorgya Setu has been rated two out of five by the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Aarogya Setu app, which has now over 100 million users in India, was compared to the contact tracing apps of 25 countries.

The MIT researchers in their review said that India's Aarogya Setu app is unique in many ways. The contact tracing apps of the other countries have limited scope but India's app is ahead of all the other contact tracing apps around the world in terms of scope and features.

"It tracks Bluetooth contact events and location—as many other apps do—but also gives each user a color-coded badge showing infection risk. It also offers access to telemedicine, an e-pharmacy, and diagnostic services. It's whitelisted by all Indian telecom companies, so using it does not count against mobile data limits," the MIT review noted.

The researchers pointed out that India doesn't have a data privacy law and hence it is not clear who can access data from the app. When the app was announced there was no compulsion on the citizens to use it but now slowly and steadily it is being made mandatory. Several companies like Zomato, Swiggy, and even the central government employees have been asked to download the app before heading to work. Employees at private offices are also required to have the app on their phone. They can only enter the workplace if their status on the app shows "safe". India is currently the only country to make its contact tracing app mandatory for citizens.

"Neither the privacy policy nor the terms of service for the app were publicly accessible at the time of publication, and the developers have not shared them despite requests. Since the app is not open source, its code and methods can't easily be reviewed by third parties, and there is no public sunset clause stating when the app will cease to be mandatory," the MIT review stated.

The researchers said that although the app has scored positive points for its timely deletion of data, it "failed to score on voluntary use, limitations of data usage, and transparency."

Earlier, an ethical hacker by the name of Elliot Alderson claimed that the privacy of 90 million Indian users was at stake due to a security vulnerability found in the app. In response to his claims, the Aaorgya Setu team said that "no personal information of any user has been proven to be at risk by this ethical hacker" and there was "no data or security breach."

Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, while backing the app said that it helped the government in locating over 650 hotspots across the country along with 300 emerging hotspots, which he believed would not have been possible otherwise.

The Aarogya Setu app has been launched to track the coronavirus infections. It notifies its users about potential risks in their areas and alerts the authorities about the same.

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