The Centre on Friday made it compulsory for even private-sector employees to download the Covid-19 contact-tracing app Aarogya Setu and placed the responsibility on the “head of the respective organizations” to ensure all employees have it. Earlier in the week, the central government had mandated all its employees as well as those working with public sector organizations to download the app.
The government has mandated that residents in containment zones – demarcated within red (hotspots) and orange zones by state and district administrations – must also download the app.
In an advisory late Friday, the home ministry extended the nationwide lockdown by two weeks starting May 4. “Use of Aarogya Setu app shall be made mandatory for all employees, both private and public,” the advisory said.
Threat of Punishment
“It shall be the responsibility of the head of the respective organizations to ensure 100% coverage of this app among the employees,” the advisory said.
Any negligence, if proven, on the part of a director, manager, secretary, or any other official shall lead to punishment, it said.
The app has been downloaded by 80 million people so far and the government’s target is to cover all smartphone users in the country – estimated at around 350 million. It is now being expanded to all feature phone users through an interactive voice response system (IVRS).
Privacy activists said a diverse group of organizations and individuals had endorsed a representation to the Prime Minister’s Office and various central government ministries opposing the mandatory use of Aarogya Setu.
The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) said in a statement, “The Aarogya Setu app, which was initially touted as a voluntary measure, has effectively been made mandatory for gig workers and government employees. This is despite failing to adhere to data protection standards and lacking algorithmic accountability.”
Order on Wednesday had made it mandatory for all central government employees as well as those working with public sector undertakings and autonomous bodies to review their ‘status’ on the app before reaching office.
The Centre had also ordered that migrant laborers and other stranded people being shifted to their home states should “be encouraged to download the app through which their health status can be tracked and monitored”.
The eCommerce industry, which has developed a standard operating procedure to stem the spread of the virus, has sought the compulsory installation of the app by all on-ground staff, among other precautions.
ET reported last week that food delivery platforms Swiggy and Zomato, online services marketplace Urban Company and e-grocer Grofers have asked frontline staff to mandatorily download the app, while e-commerce heavyweights Amazon and Flipkart have recommended that their workers do the same.
The app asks users for their travel history, contact history with a Covid-19 patient, and asks for any symptoms. In case a person gives information about travel to countries such as China or Italy or discloses any symptoms, health authorities are notified.
After the sign-up, a unique anonymous device identity – the individual’s mobile number – is assigned to every user. When the person comes near other registered devices, the app – which uses location data as well as Bluetooth data – stores an encrypted signature of the interaction on the phone. The new updates in the app also provide information about positive cases in a user’s vicinity.
Earlier on Friday, health ministry joint secretary Lav Agarwal said affected areas have been divided into two zones – containment zones and buffer zones. Each containment zone has been further divided into sectors, with 50 houses each (30 houses in difficult areas).
Containment zones have been created to map local transmission of the disease and prevent its spread. Each state defines a containment zone based on these parameters.
Karnataka, with 589 positive cases, has identified 123 containment zones across 18 districts. Andhra Pradesh, which is following the cluster classification model, has divided the state into 235 clusters consisting of 79 ‘very active’ clusters, 68 ‘active’ clusters, and 53 ‘dormant’ clusters.
Chennai has 233 containment zones, according to the city corporation. Of the 33 districts in Telangana, six are classified as red zones, 18 orange, and nine districts as green zones. In Hyderabad, the government had declared 115 containment zones on Thursday.
(With inputs from economic times)