NEW DELHI: A day after the Karnataka government announced that it would ask Covid-19 quarantined people to send them selfies every hour through an app, digital rights activists and experts raised serious concerns over the development on Tuesday.
“Have you paused to consider that we are just a step away from the government presently making an app that requires people to send selfies every hour — to it next demanding us to install live webcasting software in our bedrooms? Privacy harms are not hypotheticals any longer,” Internet Freedom Foundation executive director Apar Gupta tweeted.
SFLC legal director Prasanth Sugathan also pointed out that “Any invasion of the privacy of an individual should be within the boundaries of the law laid down by the Supreme Court in the 9 judge privacy judgment. Any action of the government should as per law.” He added that there is no law that “enables the state government to ask for such information (selfies) from a person.”
“The concern is with the increased surveillance measures being adopted by the governments and these becoming the new normal even after the pandemic is over. Such data should not be used for any other purpose other than for public health,” Sugathan said.
Bengaluru-based digital rights activist Anirav Aravind said, “The first casualty of such apps is generally rights of privacy because it’s not taken into consideration. Engineers pitch to develop technological solutions but it is up to the government to ensure that these solutions are made available in a rights-respecting manner. We can’t launch solutions and force people to try them out without their informed consent.”
The digital response of the Covid-19 outbreak, including mobile applications meant for contact tracing, circulation of lists of quarantined people, has raised several questions about mismanagement of data and its fallouts.
On Tuesday, a collective of digital rights ogranisations headed by SFLC wrote a letter to the home ministry, ministry of health and ministry of IT, urging the government to resort to strict legal measures to regulate and supervise the collection, and subsequent processing of personal data of individuals during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The letter was signed by CCAOI, Digital Empowerment Foundation Free Software Movement of India, Internet Democracy Project, Internet Freedom Foundation, Internet Society-Delhi Chapter, IT For Change and Swathanthra Malayalam Computing.