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Aarogya Setu app would no longer pick up correct of entry to your knowledge except you non-public Covid-19, says NITI Aayog’s Arnab Kumar – Times of India

India’s contact tracing app Aarogya Setu, well-known for these work in non-public and executive places of work, has been in the view of a storm over privacy and security issues. But NITI Aayog program director and part of Crew Aarogya Setu, Arnab Kumar, tells Himanshi Dhawan that no longer handiest is the app providing vital insights into the pandemic, there has been no knowledge breach

Aarogya Setu became among the many first contact tracing apps to be developed. How long did it pick the team to develop it and the diagram many of us were occupied with the system?

The idea and initial product form became proposed by a pair of of us from the chief and the non-public sector in early March. We had a working product ready per week later, after which we sophisticated it and put it thru rigorous discovering out (security, scalability, usability, performance all over a pair of devices) and released it on April 2. Within the last two months of development and scaling up, we have greater than 60 of the handiest from India all over engineering, product, arrangement structure, epidemiology, knowledge science, healthcare, privacy, security, UI form and translation occupied with the mission – backed by some of the senior-most leaders in the chief.

Contact tracing thru apps has been outdated in South Korea, China and states love Kerala. How effective has the approach been to this level?




Contact tracing is definitely necessary in accurately identifying and alerting these that can even very successfully be in menace of infection. The announce of abilities to develop this enormously improves outcomes. Furthermore, combination knowledge gathered from such an app is serious in working out the unfold of infection – magnitude to boot to course and lumber. The insights generated by Aarogya Setu in last six weeks were implausible, greater than 100,000 of us were alerted of their that it’s good to to perhaps bring to mind possibility of infection – low, moderate or excessive basically based on Bluetooth-basically based contact tracing, and perfect scientific facilities were prolonged to them. The efficacy of discovering out basically based on initial suggestions from Aarogya Setu is many times greater than any various protocol followed globally. As well, we have identified loads of doable emerging and hidden hotspots all around the country.

How many of us non-public downloaded the app till now?




The App has considered greater than 96 million downloads and registrations from all over India. Aarogya Setu is the fastest cell app globally to garner 50 million users, has made it to high-5 most downloaded apps in PlayStore globally in its first month of originate and will probably be regarded as one of many fastest to interrupt into the 100 million membership.

Amongst the issues which were raised is that contact tracing executed thru the app could perhaps perhaps lead to surveillance of folk. What is your response? What’s going to happen to the guidelines once the pandemic is over?




The Bluetooth-basically based contact tracing for Aarogya Setu is executed in an anonymous and actual system, the guidelines is saved on the phone by default and handiest accessed and analysed when fully well-known for Covid-19 intervention. Upon registration, each and all and sundry is assigned a particular, anonymous and randomised digital identification (DID). All future interactions between two devices with the app installed and between the arrangement and the server is executed the usage of this DID handiest, and no non-public knowledge is exchanged. The Bluetooth signature of interaction (DID, time, proximity, situation and duration) is securely encrypted the usage of the native keychain of the working arrangement and stored on the phone itself. Unless you switch Covid-19 certain, this knowledge is by no diagram accessed and permanently deleted from the phone in 30 days.

It’s some distance handiest whenever you happen to turn Covid-19 certain, that your contact tracing knowledge is uploaded (anonymised and encrypted) to the server and the possibility that you just non-public contaminated the of us you non-public met in last 14 days is calculated. Of the 96 million Aarogya Setu users, we have, to this level, fetched contact tracing knowledge of handiest 10,000+ users who tested Covid-19 certain – decrease than 0.1% of all of the Aarogya Setu users.

The app would no longer announce situation for contact tracing. It requests for situation for terribly explicit applications: at some level of the time of registration (pushed to the server) to analyse the penetration of the App all over India; captured as part of Bluetooth interaction (stored on the arrangement and deleted in 30 days, except the person turns Covid-19 certain) and as part of self-assessment knowledge (pushed to the server). The situation knowledge is no longer any longer outdated on a person degree and is aggregated to establish hotspots – for proactive discovering out and sanitisation of these places. The app would no longer consistently video show someone’s situation.

Any contact tracing and situation knowledge that can even wish been uploaded to the server is permanently deleted 45 days from the date of add whenever you happen to non-public no longer tested certain for Covid-19 internal that duration of time. Whereas you non-public tested certain, all contact tracing and situation knowledge referring to you is permanently deleted from the server 60 days after you is prone to be declared cured of Covid-19.

Aarogya Setu is a momentary technique to a momentary distress. As such, no knowledge related to Covid-19 will probably be retained in any system post the pandemic.

Smartphone penetration in India is handiest 30%. Even when all Indians were to download the app it could really perhaps perhaps perhaps no longer reach serious mass. Oxford consultants advise that it could well per chance handiest be effective if 60% or extra of the population has the app. How can then this be an efficient tool for checking the unfold of the illness?




Aarogya Setu has been providing incredibly vital insights at the current adoption. The intelligence from this app will pick up even higher with extra adoption, and hence we are soliciting for all of Indian smartphone users (~450 million) to set up the app and be part of in our mixed fight towards Covid-19. To develop the penetration, we are additionally launching the app for a gargantuan suppose of feature phone users – ~125 million users Jio phone users. Building an app for these phones, which makes announce of KaiOS, is a tough engineering distress which we have solved. Furthermore, we have launched a toll-free IVRS arrangement (1921) on hand for all of India to put up their successfully being circumstances and pick up curated Covid-19 related successfully being advisory.

The app is relying on self-reporting. ICMR says 69% of the patients are asymptomatic, so of us also can very successfully be blind to their Covid situation. Of us could perhaps perhaps take no longer to suppose their Covid situation out of concern of stigma. How effective can an app be in such a case?

The app doesn’t depend on self-reporting. The backend of the app is constructed-in with ICMR database thru an API, and info about patients who non-public tested Covid-19 certain is received in genuine-time. It’s some distance that this ICMR database which is the source from which the app receives knowledge about all Covid-19 certain circumstances. As soon as the Aarogya Setu engine receives an alert about a brand original case, contact tracing is lumber for that person and the possibility of infection of all these which non-public near in contact with this person is calculated. The successfully being authorities are informed of all of the users that need scientific interventions. The core providing of the app thus is contact tracing.

The self-assessment take a look at in the app, basically based on ICMR guidelines, is for users to self-characterize symptoms so that the likelihood of Covid-19 infection could perhaps perhaps even be evaluated and proactive scientific abet equipped. For the users who non-public self-declared themselves as sick, we have proactively reached out to them, and thru two-stage triaging and tele-consultation by scientific staff, perfect suggestions were communicated.

Ethical hacker Eliot Alderson has revealed that he could perhaps perhaps hack the app and ‘spy’ who became contaminated alongside side of us in the PMO and dwelling ministry. What is your response? Can Aarogya Setu be hacked and if certain, non-public you been in a situation to repair the distress?

The app has long past thru rigorous security discovering out sooner than originate, which integrated analysis by IIT Madras and by a gargantuan tech audit agency as successfully. The beta model became widely disbursed to ethical hackers and feedback became suitably incorporated. We proceed to develop security vulnerability discovering out sooner than each and every originate. The team is awfully acutely aware about security and privacy vulnerabilities, and we consistently take a look at and enhance our systems.

The newest claims about knowledge breach are wrong. The total knowledge that this hacker claims has been “leaked” is already public for all places and hence would no longer compromise any non-public or sensitive knowledge. No non-public knowledge of someone has been proven to be in menace. No knowledge or security breach has been identified, and we insist our users that we will proactively thwart one of these attempts in the raze.




There are a bunch of technical factors which were highlighted love knowledge leaks thru Bluetooth and effectiveness if the phone is in a procure or a pocket. What is your response.

The smartphone person rotten in India is awfully various – low-stop sub-Rs 5,000 phones all of the vogue to the flagship Apple and Samsung phones. Sooner than originate, we had tested the app all over greater than 30 smartphone models and proceed to develop so. Effectiveness of the app and reliability all over a pair of parameters, even when the app is working in the background, has been widely tested and verified.


We haven’t considered any occasion of Bluetooth knowledge leaks and are confident that we develop no longer non-public one of these vulnerabilities.


As well, The Aarogya Setu app makes announce of Bluetooth Low Energy, a variant that has negligible battery drain. As well we are consistently engaged on improving arrangement effectivity and will roll out these functions in future updates.


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