Hindutva Surveillance exposed through COVID-19 App.

Aarogya Setu, an app created by the Hindutva state to track the lock-down imposed upon the people of India, has been exposed by cyber-security analysts and privacy experts as a real danger to those living within India.

The Defensive Lab Agency, which is a cyber-security consultancy based in Paris France, has provided some worrying insights on the app itself:

  • The app gathers a user’s identity
  • Tracks their movement in real-time
  • Continuously checks if other people who have downloaded the app are in the proximity of the user
  • Users have to upload their name, phone number, age, sex, profession, travel history and smoking history, which is apparently encrypted onto a server.

In essence, with the information above, the app is able to create a social graph of a user by tracking everyone they have been close to. Combining this data with existing government databases, many of which are already seeded with the mobile numbers of citizens, can significantly expand the government’s powers of surveillance, privacy experts said.

Mira Swaminathan, who is the programme officer at the Center for Internet and Society said that: “It’s a threat to our constitutional rights, when the right to privacy is at risk, the right to freedom of speech and expression is at risk.”

The overall concern for privacy activists is that the Hindutva state could use the disguise of the Coronavirus pandemic in order to maximise its surveillance of power. Pallavi Bedi, who is a policy officer at the Center for Internet and Society said that: “I think the bigger concern is, is this going to open the floodgates of mass surveillance later on.”

As the Hindutva state does not have a data protection law, this means the people of the nation are unable to hold the developers of the app responsible or accountable for any privacy violations. With over 10 million downloads since its release last week, it’s what you would expect from a country that states its the world largest democracy right?


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