Posts by Tanisha Ranjit

  • Virus detected: A profile of India’s emergent ecosystem of networked technologies to tackle Covid-19

    AWO cover page

    How useful have apps, drones, online portals, and the National Migrant Information System been to tackle Covid-19 from a public health perspective? To what extent have they impacted social control? And how have marginalised people been affected in particular? This research study maps the deployment of these technologies and the evidence available so far of their usefulness to tackle the crisis. The study was conducted as part of the Covid App project. The Covid App project is a civil society initiative that stemmed from a research interest in Covid-specific interventions – especially contact tracing apps – in countries outside Europe and North America. This shared research focus drew together six civil society organisations: ALT Advisory (South Africa), Internet Democracy Project (India), InternetLAB (Brazil), Karisma (Colombia), SMEX (Lebanon), and United for Iran. AWO, a data rights agency, provided coordination support. Over a 7‑month period, the group reviewed contact tracing apps and assessed their interaction with public health, human rights, privacy, and data protection in the six countries of focus. We conducted interviews, filed freedom of information requests, and extensively reviewed public documentation to produce in-depth country reports. Contact tracing apps cannot be evaluated in a vacuum: the research considers alternative measures, technological and others, that were deployed in response to the pandemic, and often interacted with the design and deployment of contact tracing apps themselves. Today, we publish the in-depth country reports – each accompanied by a set of recommendations – alongside an expert technical review of seven contact tracing apps from our countries of focus. We hope our contribution will support the critical evaluation of contact tracing apps and other pandemic measures. In addition, we hope to foster a discussion of safeguards – including recourse and oversight – that will better protect marginalised and vulnerable groups during public health crises, bolster human rights, democracy, and rule of law, and strengthen future pandemic response.   More

    Research

  • At stake is our bodily integrity

    Governments around the world are increasingly turning to technology as a tool to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In India, these tools have ranged from various contact tracing apps to using drones. Privacy concerns have been raised about the use of such intrusive digital technologies by activists, lawyers and concerned citizens. But while these are valid, a crucial element remains unrecognised: what is at stake is not merely our informational privacy, but our autonomy, dignity, bodily integrity, and equality. Note: A shorter version of this article was originally published in the Hindu.   More

  • An anniversary we are wary about

    On 2 April 2020, the Government of India launched the Aarogya Setu app with the stated intention of curbing the pandemic — and a lot has happened with it since. Post its launch, the app was heavily promoted and made mandatory by different public and private entities for various purposes. The prescription of a state-sponsored app raises many concerns. In addition to the issue of data privacy and security, such an imposition can lead to an infringement of fundamental rights. It can exclude those who do not have access to a mobile phone.   More

  • Best effort basis’: Is it indeed the best effort by the Government?

    The Government issued an order on 17 May 2020 that appeared to dilute the mandatory’ nature of the Aarogya Setu app. According to this order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, employers on best efforts’ are asked to ensure the downloading of the app. Additionally, District Authorities may also advise’ individuals to download the app. This was a refreshing move as previously issued guidelines on the lockdown had made the app mandatory for both private and public employees as well as those in containment zones. At first sight, there seems to be a reason to celebrate. But is this the case in practice?   More

  • When and where is Aarogya Setu mandatory? We’re keeping track

    The Indian Government has launched the Aarogya Setu app as a response to COVID-19. While initially termed voluntary, we noticed that soon after its launch, the app started to be pushed by various governments, non-government establishments and private bodies as mandatory, or forced on people in other ways. Our Aarogya Setu Tracker attempts to document all these cases. Access the Aarogya Setu Tracker here. To make the tracker as exhaustive as possible, we need your help! If you come across relevant news items/​orders (especially those in regional languages), please forward them to info@​internetdemocracy.​in or tag us on Twitter (@iNetDemocracy). After fact-checking the item, we will add it to the tracker.   More