MIT researchers examine Aarogya Setu app, here’s what they have to say

The Aarogya Setu app which has nearly 100 million users was compared with Covid-19 apps of 25 other countries.

The Aarogya Setu app which has nearly 100 million users was compared with Covid-19 apps of 25 other countries.
The Aarogya Setu app which has nearly 100 million users was compared with Covid-19 apps of 25 other countries. (AP)

Researchers at MIT Technology Review have given 2 out of 5 points to Aarogya Setu app on its Covid-19 app tracker index, saying it scores positively on the timely deletion of user data and collection of only useful data.

The Aarogya Setu app which has nearly 100 million users was compared with Covid-19 apps of 25 other countries.

The findings of contact-tracing apps were based on their enforcement, handling of data, privacy and transparency dynamics across the world.

The tracker, documented 25 such tools after analysing "what they are, how they work, and what policies and processes have been put in place around them".

Also read: Exclusive: MyGov CEO explains how Aarogya Setu handles your location data, says it will be useless once Covid-19 is contained

Aarogya Setu scored positively on the timely deletion of user data and collection of only useful data but "failed to score on voluntary use, limitations of data usage, and transparency", said MIT Technology Review.

MIT Technology Review's database shows that India's app is unique in a number of other ways, too.

"Many countries are developing limited services that use Bluetooth or GPS to give 'exposure notifications' to people who have interacted with someone found to have covid-19. India's app, though, is a massive all-in-one undertaking that far exceeds what most other countries are building," said the report.

Aarogya Setu 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.

Also read: Aarogya Setu for KaiOS-based Jio phones already in development, confirms MyGov India CEO

On May 6, reacting to an ethical hacker's claim that a security issue has been found in the app, the Aarogya Setu team said the app is completely safe.

The Aarogya Setu team said the app fetches a user's location by design and store the location data on the server in a secure, encrypted and anonymised manner, "when users submit their contact tracing data voluntary through the app of when we fetch tracing data of a user after they have turned Covid-19 positive."

"All this information is already public for all locations and, hence, does not compromise on any personal or sensitive data," said the app team.

On Saturday, Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said that Aarogya Setu has alerted the government about more than 650 hotspots across the country which could have been missed otherwise.

Also read: Aarogya Setu becomes world's 7th most downloaded app in April, beats Netflix and others

Kant also claimed that the app, which has now been made mandatory for all government employees, alerted about over 300 emerging hotspots which helped the government take swift action.

Aarogya Setu is a Covid-19 tracking mobile application developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) that comes under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

This app is designed to help control the spread of coronavirus and make its information accessible to the common people. This special app also helps in finding out corona positive people present nearby.