NITI Aayog Chief Executive Officer Amitabh Kant said on Tuesday that the government has decided to make the Aarogya Setu app open source, amid concerns that it may be misused. In a tweet, he said the source code will now be available to developers, in an effort to show the transparency of the government.
The Aarogya Setu app is meant to alert users if they have come in contact with a Covid-19 patient and what measures they need to take in case that happens. Cybersecurity experts, however, have expressed concerns that it could violate the users’ privacy and become a surveillance tool in the hands of the government.
“#AarogyaSetu, India’s #Covid-19 contact tracing app is now open source,” Kant said in his tweet. “Transparency, privacy and security have been the core design principles. It has 115 million users in 12 languages. All of this in 8 weeks. It has identified 3500 hotspots at sub-post office level. Robust technology!” Kant said making the app open source “further highlights” the government’s commitment to the core design principles of the app.
The NITI Aayog chief executive officer claimed the app had 15 million [1.5 crore] users in 13 days and 100 million [10 crore] users in 41 days. The app was launched in April, amid a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The lockdown will end on May 31, if it is not extended.
Replying to a Twitter user who asked if the app was now safe to use, Kant claimed that it had always been safe. He asked the user to download the application, claiming it had so far alerted 1.4 lakh people to their potential risk of Covid-19 infection.
On May 1, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs ordered that downloading the app was mandatory for employees of private and public sector organisations, making the heads of private organisations liable for non-compliance. It also mandated 100% coverage of the Aarogya Setu app within containment zones. The legality of such an order has been questioned.
Over 1.45 lakh people in India have so far been found infected with the coronavirus, and 4,167 have died, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.