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PRIVACY AND PANDEMIC: THE TWO Ps OF CONCERN

Author: Sneha Krishnamurthy, V year of B.A LLB. from Ramaiah College of Law, Bangalore


The exponential spread of the virus has wobbled many industries causing a ruckus all over the world. The increase in the number of cases appears to be ceaseless spawning the death rate in our country. With the strike of the second wave, India is one of the worst-affected nations. The pressing priority of a lockdown has been an ebb and flow in India as the economy has been majorly affected but, on the other hand, we see a downfall of cases making it a tricky situation to handle. The rollout of vaccines originally gave a ray of hope to the people but now, it has yet again turned into a game of politics.


Our constitution expresses the fundamental rights that are available to all the citizens and the significance is given on Article 21- the right to life. In the purview of this article, the right to privacy has emerged as a fundamental right and it is an essential part of human dignity and will not lose its status amongst the Golden Trinity which was upheld in Puttaswamy vs Union of India. (1) With technological advancements, the need for privacy has become essential for every individual. As we come across many cyber-attacks and cyber threats, the digital era needs to be scrutinized to function effectively. Unquestionably, the world of the internet has become a harder place to live in as the fear of infringement has grown massively over the years.


The right to privacy has been in debate now and then. The launch of the Aarogya Setu app has led to many arguments yet again. In the early 2020s, the government launched the app with a motive to help people locate the persons infected with the virus within a particular radius. But what we see now is that it has taken a whole new direction. The decline in the number of downloads of the app in August is over 90% when compared to its launch in April. The hue and cry among people for the protection of their data have become a matter of concern.


Although, the issue of privacy is not as significant as we see it because apps like Google, Amazon, Facebook already have the data and they use it for customization and comfort. Without providing such data it is hard to get a listing anywhere. Similarly, the Setu developers thought that if the infected people could load their data on the app and register themselves as ‘infected’, through Bluetooth alert then they could notify others if they had the app. But this was no longer of use once the community spread began and the whole purpose of the app was meaningless. The majority of the people failed to understand how to use the app which is also one of the causes for its failure. Sooner than we knew, this stepped into a new perspective and paved the way for infringement of the right to privacy.


The disaster management act, 2005 permits the union and the local governments to fetch the data of the citizens to prevent disasters when there is no specific legislation governing the issue. But the question here is whether the app is anonymous? One of the many loopholes of the application is its privacy policy because it fails to specify the use of the data collected every 15 minutes and added to this the source code of the app is closed and not available for the public domain. In such scenarios, it makes it hard to trust the intention of the government. Another setback is the requirement of an individual’s age, sex, phone number and other personal details which is unnecessary if it is anonymous as it is already linked to the geographical location of the user. It creates a question of doubt in one's mind when such ineffective tactics are played. Privacy as a matter of right is a delicate matter which is why we come across many checkboxes while we are shopping online or opening a new web browser, The implication is that there must exist a contractual agreement between the user and the provider as the age of new media can be damaging to those who are new to it and this consent agreement is lacking in the Aarogya Setu app.


The Kerala High Court and Karnataka High Court while settling on the appeal testing the Central Government's organization on utilizing application compulsory for the workers (public and private) just as between state travel, given the notification to the union government asking the answer for protection rules. To prove a violation of a fundamental right there must be a clear affirmation that there has been an infringement and it is unreasonable. The government is under constant denial mode in respect of this issue. Moreover, the app fails to state its compliance with the Information Technology Act,2000 and the IT Rules, 2011.


Considering all the above-discussed privacy issues regarding the Aarogya Setu app, there is an enormous need to protect the data of the public. The constitutional safeguards have to be met to preserve the privacy rights of the citizens for which, there must be transparency and security. It would mean a disappointment on a piece of the established hardware of the fundamental rights if this privilege of protection is detracted from the people. Noticeably our general public set up the connection of reciprocal rights between right to data and right to protection, hence allowing residents to move towards decisions taken by the council concerning their own and even non-individual data. It is the ideal opportunity for the public authority to be required a deliberative leeway of the multitude of existing questions encompassing the application.


CONCLUSION

Like many other countries, India’s attempt to launch a contact tracing app is a notable initiative as it helps to locate hotspot areas and it is of better use for a large population. Yet, the insufficiencies over the intense execution of this application and the unaddressed security issues bring this application standing dangerous to utilize. The Government offices have consistently been invalidating such cases by expressing the application is alright for the clients. The slackened security strategy of the application and the sweeping risk of the public authority in regards to any sort of information break leaves the application utilization choice over the self-inner voice of the user.