India has 16 contact tracing apps, Aarogya Setu tops downloads globally

Topics Coronavirus | Apps | GPS tracker

Given that contact tracing requires a large number of people to download the app in order for it to be effective, competition in the area might prove to be counterproductive, according to the research firm
The Indian government-endorsed contact tracing Aarogya Setu was found to be the most popular in its space globally, with 50 million downloads, but the efficacy and privacy of contact tracing globally is questionable, according to Internet research firm Top10VPN.

The firm found contact tracing apps in 23 countries, with many more scheduled to be rolled out in the coming weeks.   

In India, as many as 16 such apps were found, developed either by states, private companies or in public-private partnership. Apart from Aarogya Setu, the governments of Arunanchal Pradesh, Punjab, Chhatisgarh, Goa, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Gujarat (Surat), Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have built apps that work on contact tracing for tracking Covid-19 patients. 

Given that contact tracing requires a large number of people to download the app in order for it to be effective, competition in the area might prove to be counterproductive, according to the research firm.   


"The apps are designed to help stem the spread of the virus by using location data to track individuals and those they have come into contact with. Once an individual is found to be infected with the virus, all of the people that have recently been in contact with them are notified and, in most cases, asked to self-quarantine," said Top10VPN in its "COVID-19 Digital Rights Tracker". 

Globally, it found 43 such apps, with 28 per cent them have no privacy policy and 64 per cent using GPS (global positioning system) rather than Bluetooth. 

Quoting an American Civil Liberties Union whitepaper on contact tracing, Top10VPN points out that in an epidemic scenario, none of the data sources were accurate enough to identify close contact with sufficient reliability.

"Although Bluetooth is considerably more accurate than GPS, the majority of apps we’ve documented rely on GPS instead. Inaccurate results are likely to lead to a high number of false positives and negatives that may adversely impact the relaxation of lockdown measures," said Samuel Woodhams, Digital Rights Lead at Top10VPN. 


Given that almost half of all the contact racing apps it documented have a centralised data storage, coupled with the lack of privacy policies in some cases, there was an increased possibility that the data may be abused.


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