The Press Information Bureau (PIB), which is the government’s nodal agency, has rejected a media report claiming that the newly launched AarogyaSetu is a surveillance App. Taking to its Twitter handle, the PIB tweeted, “Claim: a prominent newspaper has alleged in an Op-Ed that #AarogyaSetu will be used for surveillance.’’

The PIB tweet clarified that the media report is “baseless’’, adding that “the App does not link user location and data with any sensitive personal data. Also, it does not make users vulnerable to hacking.”

The clarification from the PIB came days after the government launched the AarogyaSetu app to track COVID-19 patients in the country. The ArogyaSetu app has been made available on both Android and iOS devices.

Launched under the banner of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY), the app has been developed by the National Informatics Centre.

The app lets users check whether they have been in contact with infected people by using location and Bluetooth data from smartphones. The app requires users to give continuous access to their smartphone’s location that would let it figure out where the user has been. The Bluetooth location lets users figure out a person’s proximity to others.

AarogyaSetu is available in 11 languages, including English, Hindi, Bangla and Marathi. It is one of many location-based surveillance apps that have been launched by governments across the world to help with contact tracing efforts for COVID-19. 

“Your data is shared only with the Government of India. The app does not allow your name and number to be disclosed to the public at large at any time,” says a disclaimer on the App Permissions page of the application, on Android.