People living in or travelling to Noida and Greater Noida would be punished if they do not have the the Aarogya Setu mobile application on their smartphones, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday. Repeat offenders could be imprisoned up to 6 months or fined up to Rs 1,000.
Aarogya Setu, launched in April, is a contact tracing mobile application that informs people if they have come into contact with a coronavirus infected person. However, cybersecurity experts have expressed concerns that it could violate the users’ privacy and become a surveillance tool in the hands of the government.
“All those with smartphones who do not have the application can be booked under Section 188 [disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant] of the Indian Penal Code,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Akhilesh Kumar told The Indian Express. “After that, a judicial magistrate will either decide if the person will be tried, fined or left with a warning.”
Kumar said the police will conduct checks at markets, borders and other areas while they are on patrol duty. “If people download it instantly, we will let them go,” he said. “We are doing this so that people take the order seriously and download it. But if they do not download it after repeated warnings, we will have to take action.”
He added that the police will also assist people by sharing internet so they can download the app, and if a person is facing issues with their phone, the police officer will take the person’s contact details and call to check if they have downloaded it.
Meanwhile, the Home Ministry hs made it mandatory for stranded Indians being brought back in special flights from abroad to also download the app.
Last week, in its revised guidelines, the Centre permitted a list of activities and made the app mandatory for all public and private sector employees. The lockdown, imposed first on March 24 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, has now been extended till May 17.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had on Saturday flagged privacy risks posed by the app and said it was “a sophisticated surveillance system, outsourced to a pvt [private] operator, with no institutional oversight”, thereby raising serious data security and privacy concerns.
Union Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had hit back at Gandhi and said that the app was a powerful companion that protects people. “It has a robust data security architecture. Those who indulged in surveillance all their lives, won’t know how tech can be leveraged for good! Aarogya Setu is NOT outsourced to any private operator,” he had retorted.