Rohan Seth Quoted in The Print on the Rise of COVID Apps

Rohan Seth, Policy Analyst at the Takshashila Institution, was quoted in The Print’s Talk Point on the Rise of COVID apps. The article was published on 10 May 2020. Seth was quoted as saying:

Given the urgency of the coronavirus pandemic and recent attention given to contact tracing apps, it is not surprising that states, cities, and individual law enforcement departments have tried to come up with their own app-based solutions. Limited state capacity has made nationwide coordination an added challenge during the pandemic.

This has negative implications for data protection in India today. Most of these apps are collecting health data, which is personal and sensitive. While Aarogya Setu’s privacy policy looks at issues such as data minimisation, sharing, and data retention, it is unlikely all other apps will follow the same standards.

Given that a data protection law still does not exist in India, slip-ups in data protection practices are a price we have to pay with limited or no consequences.

Creating multiple apps for contact tracing and quarantine management may end up being counterproductive. Not just because of the higher risk of data breaches, but also because adoption rates depend on awareness as well as the availability of smartphones. Population reach for tech solutions is something we covered at Takshashila in our recent research.

The crisis of having multiple apps is reflective of India’s current landscape, and a symptom of not having a data protection law coupled with limited state capacity.

In addition, apps do not generally adhere to jurisdictions in their functioning. Instead, they are made available on the Play/App Store, ready to be downloaded. So lockdown restrictions, whether they are eased or not, will not play much of a role. You can be in Kerala and download Delhi’s Covid app for hosptial bed information.