India repurposes its COVID-19 contact tracing app and vaccination website

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India is repurposing its COVID-19 contact tracing app and vaccination website to address other health concerns in the South Asian country.

A senior official said on Sunday that the Indian government plans to use Aarogya Setu as the country’s standalone health app.

The app will offer residents the ability to book medical appointments and check registrations with QR codes to avoid waiting in queues at hospitals, RS Sharma, the chief executive of the National Authority of Health, the body that oversees the implementation of the country’s flagship public health. regime, said at a public event.

Aarogya Setu, launched in 2020, has racked up more than 240 million downloads, he said. The app was initially launched as a “temporary solution to a temporary problem”.

Shortly after its launch, Aarogya Setu, which means “bridge to health” in Sanskrit, raised some concerns from privacy advocates about the app tracking individuals. New Delhi dismissed the concerns and said at the time that the so-called flaws were implemented in the app by design. Weeks later, he opened the app.

The Indian government is also repurposing its COVID-19 immunization website, CoWIN, to serve the country’s universal immunization agenda.

The revamped site will allow individuals to locate and obtain mandatory vaccines covered by the national immunization program, including polio drops, and attempt to help small-scale doctors use it as a management system health information, said Sharma, who previously oversaw the country’s telecommunications. regulator.

COVID Vaccine Intelligence Network, commonly referred to as CoWIN, was introduced in January last year as the Indian government’s platform to maintain a unified COVID-19 vaccination registry.

Privacy advocates disagree with the government’s latest decision.

“It is critical to note that any data collected for this purpose should only be used for this purpose,” Kazim Rizvi, founding director of public policy think tank The Dialogue, told TechCrunch.

Prasanth Sugathan, legal director of digital civil rights group SFLC.in, also said that data collected through Aarogya Setu and CoWIN should not be used for any other purpose, as such use would be against the principle of purpose limitation.

“The absence of data protection law should not be an excuse for carrying out such exercises affecting the rights of citizens. The fact that citizens have agreed to provide their data to control the pandemic should not lead to the use of this data for other purposes without the express authorization and informed consent of the citizens,” he said.

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