Amid much controversy around the Aarogya Setu app, Amitabh Kant, the chief executive of Indian government's digital thinktank Niti Aayog, has said that the app is "highly encrypted", and that the public data being procured from the app is only being shared with select government officials that are "directly involved in Covid-19 interventions. Kant had previously also tweeted, claiming that the Aarogya Setu app was built as "privacy-first by design", largely in response to a recent claim by ethical hacker Robert Baptiste that the app was a government-backed public surveillance tool.
Speaking to news agency ANI, Kant said, "Aarogya Setu has a clearly defined protocol for access of data. National Informatics Centre (NIC) is the fiduciary of the data, (which) is only shared with government officials directly involved in Covid-19-related medical and administrative interventions on a strictly need-to-know basis and limited in scope only to their direct work." Kant's response to ANI directly answers queries regarding accountability of data, which have been among the multiple conversations about user privacy that Aarogya Setu has led to.
The government of India has recently mandated large sections of the society to download the Aarogya Setu app on their phones. However, the decision has faced considerable criticism, and the Internet Freedom Foundation of India (IFF), along with others, have written to government officials, in a bid to appeal to them against making the procedure of installing the app mandatory. Government sources have also suggested that Aarogya Setu may feature as a must-setup service for every new phone sold in the coming weeks. Apps such as these have also brought together Apple and Google, who aim to release their own, decentralised contact tracing framework and offer it to nations that are financially weaker.
The government of India has strongly maintained that no data from the Aarogya Setu app has ever been misused. Government officials have further assured users that the data being collected is stored securely, are only being used for specific, Covid-19-related purposes only. Aarogya Setu has since crossed the mark of 100 million users, and going forward, will likely get a different version that can run contact tracing services for non-smartphone users as well.