The government has ordered all its employees, including outsourced staff, to download the Aarogya Setu app that helps people self-assess and track COVID-19 infections.
An office memorandum was issued on Wednesday with directions to be strictly followed for the safety of all government officials even as serious privacy concerns have been raised with the app.
According to the guidelines mentioned in the order, all government employees must review their status on the Aarogya Setu app before leaving for office and commute only when the app shows ‘safe’ or ‘low risk’ status. In case of moderate and high-risk status, employees should not come to the office and isolate them for 14 days until the condition improves, the order said.
Besides central government employees, ministries and departments may issue similar guidelines to all autonomous, statutory bodies, and PSUs, the government order said and has deployed the Joint Secretary (Administration) to ensure all instructions are followed strictly.
The government has been encouraging its employees including in the armed forces, Prasar Bharati, and other government departments to install the app. Even school children were asked to inform their parents to download the app.
Ever since the Aarogya Setu app was introduced, concerns over privacy as well as the absence of any legal framework have been increasing. The app had recently crossed 75 million downloads and looks set to reach 100 million downloads soon.
According to the digital privacy platform Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), the order issued requires mandatory use. Hence, there is a clear inference now that Aarogya Setu is no longer voluntary. This undermines the autonomy of users.
Apart from tracking the health status, the government is also mulling over increasing its use case and is working on procuring thousands of wristbands that will be integrated with the app to keep track of the movement of patients.