Aarogya Setu

Mobile application for COVID-19 contact tracing in India

Screenshot
Screenshot of user registration page
Developer(s)National Informatics Centre, Government of IndiaInitial releaseApril 2020; 3 years ago (2020-04)Stable release(s) [±]
Android2.2.4 / July 3, 2023; 7 months ago (2023-07-03)[1]
iOS3.1.1 / June 3, 2023; 8 months ago (2023-06-03)[2]
Repositorygithub.com/nic-delhi/AarogyaSetu_AndroidWritten inKotlin and JavaOperating system
  • Android 5 or above
  • iOS 10.3 or above
  • IVRS
  • KaiOS
Size
  • 4.05 MB (Android)
  • 29.2 MB (iOS)
Available in12 languages
List of languages
Hindi, English, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi, Bengali, Odia, Gujarati, Assamese
TypeHealth careLicenseApache License 2.0Websiteaarogyasetu.gov.in

Aarogya Setu (translation from Sanskrit: the bridge to health) is an Indian COVID-19 "contact tracing, syndromic mapping and self-assessment" digital service, primarily a mobile app, developed by the National Informatics Centre under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). The app reached more than 100 million installs in 40 days. On 26 May, amid growing privacy and security concerns, the source code of the app was made public.[3]

Full view

The stated purpose of this app is to spread awareness of COVID-19 and to connect essential COVID-19-related health services to the people of India.[4] This app augments the initiatives of the Department of Health to contain COVID-19 and shares best practices and advisories. It is a tracking app which uses the smartphone's GPS and Bluetooth features to track COVID-19 cases. The app is available for Android[5] and iOS mobile operating systems.[6] With Bluetooth, it tries to determine the risk if one has been near (within six feet of) a COVID-19-infected person, by scanning through a database of known cases across India. Using location information, it determines whether the location one is in belongs to one of the infected areas based on the data available.[4]

This app is an updated version of an earlier app called Corona Kavach (now discontinued) which was released earlier by the Government of India.[7]

Features and tools

Aarogya Setu has four sections:

  • User Status (tells the risk of getting COVID-19 for the user)[citation needed]
  • Self Assess (helps the users identify COVID-19 symptoms and their risk profile)[citation needed]
  • COVID-19 Updates (gives updates on local and national COVID-19 cases)
  • E-pass integration (if applied for E-pass, it will be available)[8]
  • See Recent Contacts option (allows the users to assess the risk level of their Bluetooth contacts)[9]

It tells how many COVID-19 positive cases are likely in a radius of 500 m, 1 km, 2 km, 5 km and 10 km from the user.[10]

The app is built on a platform that can provide an application programming interface (API) so that other computer programs, mobile applications, and web services can make use of the features and data available in Aarogya Setu.[citation needed]

Response

Aarogya Setu crossed five million downloads within three days of its launch, making it one of the most popular government apps in India.[11][12] It became the world's fastest-growing mobile app, beating Pokémon Go, with more than 50 million installs 13 days after launching in India on 2 April 2020.[13] It reached 100 million installs by 13 May 2020, that is in 40 days since its launch.[14]

In an order on 29 April 2020 the central government made it mandatory for all employees to download the app and use it – "Before starting for office, they must review their status on Aarogya Setu and commute only when the app shows safe or low risk".[15][16] The Union Home Ministry also said that the application is mandatory for all living in the COVID-19 containment zone. The government gave the announcement along with the nationwide lockdown extension by two weeks from the 4 May with certain relaxations.[citation needed]

On 21 May 2020, the Airport Authority of India issued a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) stating that all departing passengers must compulsorily be registered with the Aarogya Setu app.[17] It added that the app would not be mandatory for children below 14 years.[18] However, the next day, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri clarified that the app would not be mandatory for any passengers.[19]

On 26 May 2020, the Aarogya Setu app code was made open to developers across the globe to help other countries manage contact tracing in their fight against COVID-19 pandemic.[20]

In March 2021, Co-WIN portal was integrated with the app.[21] This allowed users to schedule an appointment through the app for COVID-19 vaccine by registering their phone number and providing relevant documents.[22]

Effectiveness

NITI Aayog CEO revealed that "the app has been able to identify more than 3,000 hotspots in 3–17 days ahead of time."[23]

However, users and experts in India and around the world say the app raises huge data security concerns.[24] The app collects name, number, gender, travel history, and uses a phone's Bluetooth and location data to let users know if they have been near a person with COVID-19 by scanning a database of known cases of infection, and also share it with the government simultaneously.[citation needed]

This is the major area of concern as the app's constant access to a phone's Bluetooth imposes a form of security threat. But it stood to clarify itself that the informations received are not going to be made public. Amidst all these, the app hits a record of about one-hundred million downloads.[citation needed]

Reception

Rahul Gandhi, leader of the Congress party, termed the Aarogya Setu application a "sophisticated surveillance system" after the government announced that downloading the app would be mandatory for both government and private employees.[25] Following this, others raised the same concerns about the Aarogya Setu app.[26][27][28] The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) responded to these concerns by asserting that Gandhi's claims were false, and that the app was being appreciated internationally.[citation needed]

On 5 May, French ethical hacker Robert Baptiste, who goes by the name Elliot Alderson on Twitter, claimed that there were security issues with the app.[29] The Indian government, as well as the app developers, responded to this claim by thanking the hacker for his attention, but dismissed his concerns.[30] The developers of the app stated that the fetching of location data is a documented feature of the app, rather than a flaw, since the app is designed to track the distribution of the virus-infected population. They also asserted that no personal information of any user has been proven to be at risk.[31]

On 6 May, Robert Baptiste tweeted that security vulnerabilities in Aarogya Setu allowed hackers to "know who is infected, unwell, [or] made a self assessment in the area of his choice". He also gave details of how many people were unwell and infected at the Prime Minister's Office, the Indian Parliament and the Home Office.[32] The Economic Times pointed out that a clause in the app's Terms and Conditions stated that the user "agrees and acknowledges that the Government of India will not be liable for … any unauthorised access to your information or modification thereof".[33] In response, several software developers called for the source code to be made public.[34]

On 12 May, former Supreme Court Judge Justice B.N. Srikrishna termed the government's push mandating the use of Aarogya Setu app "utterly illegal". He said so far it is not backed by any law and questioned "under what law, government is mandating it on anyone".[35]

MIT Technology Review gave 2 out of 5 stars to Aarogya Setu app after analyzing the COVID contact tracing apps launched in 25 countries. The app got stars only for the policy which suggests that data collected is deleted after a period of time and that the data collection, as far as user inputs go, is minimal. It also highlighted that India is the only democracy making its app mandatory for millions of people.[36] The rating was further downgraded from 2 to 1 for collecting more information than the app needs to function.[37]

Following this, the MeitY made the source code of the Android app public on GitHub on 26 May, which will be followed by iOS and API documentation. Further, the Government has also launched a "bug bounty program".[38] This was done to "promote transparency and ensure security and integrity of the app". However, experts stated that the server-side code had not yet been publicly released, which meant that public opinion on security and privacy was yet to be completely assuaged.[39] Following this, ZDNet noted that the source code seemed to confirm the government's claim that user location data, if collected, would be anonymised and would be deleted after 45 days, or 60 days for high-risk individuals.[40]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Aarogya Setu APKs". APKMirror. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  2. ^ "AarogyaSetu". App Store. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  3. ^ nic-delhi/AarogyaSetu_Android, nic-delhi, 27 May 2020, retrieved 27 May 2020
  4. ^ a b "Govt launches 'Aarogya Setu', a coronavirus tracker app: All you need to know". Livemint. 2 April 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  5. ^ "Aarogya Setu – Apps on Google Play". Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  6. ^ "Aarogya Setu Mobile App". MyGov.in. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  7. ^ "Govt discontinues Corona Kavach, Aarogya Setu is now India's go-to COVID-19 tracking app". The Financial Express. 5 April 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  8. ^ "Aarogya Setu New UI and Features". SA News Channel. 15 April 2020. Archived from the original on 19 April 2020.
  9. ^ "Aarogya Setu update: New features added to India's contact tracing app". Indian Express. 21 August 2020. Archived from the original on 22 August 2020.
  10. ^ "Aarogya Setu announces Bluetooth proximity feature for contact tracing! Here's how to check". The Financial Express. 6 July 2020.
  11. ^ "Aarogya Setu App Crosses 5 Million Installs in 3 Days". NDTV Gadgets 360. 4 April 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  12. ^ Bureau, ABP News (4 April 2020). "Coronavirus India: Govt's 'Aarogya Setu' App Crosses 5 Million Downloads in 3 Days". news.abplive.com. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  13. ^ "Go Aarogya Setu Go: Modi govt's app pushes aside Pokémon GO to become fastest growing mobile app with 50 million users". Free Press Journal. 15 April 2020. Archived from the original on 19 April 2020.
  14. ^ "Aarogya Setu app enters 100 million users club". The Times of India. 13 May 2020. Archived from the original on 13 May 2020. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  15. ^ "Centre makes Arogya Setu app must for all central govt employees". India Today. 29 April 2020. Archived from the original on 1 May 2020. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  16. ^ Cruze, Danny Cyril D. (2 May 2020). "Aarogya Setu now mandatory for employees in India. Here's how to register". Livemint.
  17. ^ Phadnis, Ashwini (21 May 2020). "Passengers with 'red' status on Aarogya Setu App will not be permitted to fly, says Civil Aviation ministry". Business Line.
  18. ^ Thakur, Prabhakar (21 May 2020). "Aarogya Setu App Mandatory for Airline Passengers, No Entry Without 'Green' Status". NDTV.
  19. ^ "വിമാന സര്‍വീസ് നിര്‍ത്തലാക്കില്ല; ആരോഗ്യസേതു നിര്‍ബന്ധമല്ല- വ്യോമയാന മന്ത്രി". Mathrubhoomi. 23 May 2020. Archived from the original on 10 July 2020. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  20. ^ "Aarogya Setu is now open source". pib.gov.in. Retrieved 25 March 2022.
  21. ^ "CoWIN". www.cowin.gov.in. Retrieved 16 June 2021.
  22. ^ Staff Writer (3 March 2021). "How to register for Covid vaccination on Aarogya Setu App: A detailed guide". mint. Retrieved 16 June 2021.
  23. ^ "Aarogya Setu identified over 3k virus hotspots in 3-17 days ahead of time: Kant". Livemint. 26 May 2020. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  24. ^ "Why is India's contact tracing app controversial?". 14 May 2020.
  25. ^ "Rahul Gandhi terms Aarogya Setu a 'sophisticated surveillance system', RS Prasad hits back". Moneycontrol. 2 May 2020. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  26. ^ Ananth, Venkat (15 April 2020). "'Aarogya Setu's not all that healthy for a person's privacy'". The Economic Times. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  27. ^ Clarance, Andrew (15 May 2020). "Why is India's contact tracing app controversial?". BBC News. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  28. ^ George, P. j (26 April 2020). "Coronavirus | What are the concerns around the AarogyaSetu app?". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  29. ^ Banerjee, Prasid (5 May 2020). "French hacker finds security issue in Aarogya Setu". LiveMint. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  30. ^ "Govt 'thanks' French ethical hacker who flagged Aarogya Setu, but dismisses security concern". ThePrint. 6 May 2020.
  31. ^ "Arogya Setu app on privacy issue: Read full statement here". Hindustan Times. 6 May 2020.
  32. ^ "Aarogya Setu Security Issue Exposed PMO, MHA Employee Data: Hacker". The Quint. 6 May 2020. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  33. ^ Anandi Chandrashekhar & Surabhi Agarwal (6 May 2020). "Govt has no liability if Aarogya Setu data leaks". The Economic Times. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  34. ^ Sharma, Jeevan Prakash (7 May 2020). "Make Aarogya Setu Source Data Public For Greater Transparency, Scrutiny: Experts". Outlook.
  35. ^ "Mandating use of Aarogya Setu app illegal, says Justice B N Srikrishna". The Indian Express. 12 May 2020. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  36. ^ "Aarogya Setu App Gets Just 2 Out of 5 stars in MIT Technology Review for COVID Contact Tracing Apps". Network 18 Media. 12 May 2020. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  37. ^ Ajmal, Anam (22 May 2020). "MIT downgrades Aarogya app". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 23 May 2020. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  38. ^ Singh, Jagmeet (27 May 2020). "Government Open Sources Aarogya Setu App Code After Facing Criticisms". NDTV Gadgets 360. Archived from the original on 26 May 2020. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  39. ^ Aryan, Aashish (28 May 2020). "Explained: What making Aarogya Setu open-source means". The Indian Express. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  40. ^ Rao, Rajiv (29 May 2020). "India's contact tracing app made open source, but will this thwart a surveillance state?". ZDNet. Retrieved 4 June 2020.

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