Karnataka HC Tells Centre Aarogya Setu Users’ Data Can’t Be Shared Without Their Consent
The Karnataka High Court barred the Indian government and the National Informatics Centre from sharing user data stored in the Aarogya Setu app with other government departments and agencies without obtaining informed consent from app users. Aarogya Setu is the Indian government’s contact tracing app for Covid19.
However, the court did not put a stay on sharing information already collected via the app.
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The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology put together the Aarogya Setu Data Access and Knowledge Sharing Protocol, 2020, in response to several queries regarding the app’s privacy policies after its launch in 2020. The protocol states that data may be shared with several ministries, departments, and public health institutions of the Government of India, including the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, Departments of Health of the State/Union Territory Governments/ local governments, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), and more, “where such sharing is strictly necessary to directly formulate or implement an appropriate health response.”
However, though the protocol seeks to inform people about data-sharing, it did not mention taking users’ informed consent before sharing the data. This became a problem as the Government made installing Aarogya Setu mandatory in order to use services like rail or air travel — an order which was repealed by the Karnataka High Court in October 2020.