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Aarogya Setu

To counter privacy concerns, govt makes Aarogya Setu app open source

Aarogya Setu

The government has made its Covid-19 contact tracing app Aarogya Setu open source, a move seen as a step taken to counter the rising noises of privacy issues around the app. 

Ajay Prakash Sawhney, secretary in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), announced that the government will release the source code of the app to ensure its transparency.

The development comes after many cybersecurity and cyber law experts demanded the open-sourcing of the source code of the app so that developers could independently inspect all the features, including its privacy settings.

The government was also under pressure as Aarogya Setu was downgraded by MIT Technology Review’s ‘COVID Tracing Tracker’. In a review just days ago, MIT had given only 1 out of 5 stars to the app for collecting more data than necessary. 

According to the announcement, the source code of Aarogya Setu’s Android app will be released on GitHub post-midnight tonight for all users on the Google-owned platform. 

“Opening the source code to the developer community signifies our continuing commitment to the principles of transparency and collaboration,” a press release from MeitY said.

Developed by MeitY under the guidance of the National Informatics Centre, Aarogya Setu’s iOS version source code will also be released within the next two weeks along with the server code.

The government has also gone a step ahead and has offered a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh to security experts for identifying and reporting bugs and vulnerabilities in the app.

With around 115 million users on the platform, Aarogya Setu will become the first of its kind app to open source its code for such a large user base. It is worth noting that the Singapore government has already open-sourced its official Covid-19 contact tracing app.

Privacy experts, including French hacker Robert Baptiste aka Elliot Alderson, one of the biggest critics of the app, have welcomed the government’s decision.

“This is very positive news and I’m very happy that the Indian government took this direction,” Alderson said in a tweet.

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