Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves on Friday submitted before the Karnataka High Court that India is the only democratic nation that mandates the use of a mobile application like the Aarogya Setu Tracking Application.
Arguing before the Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Vishwajith Shetty, Gonsalves sought interim relief in the matter. He stated that, “India is the only democratic nation making the app mandatory. While on paper, downloading the Aarogya Setu App is not mandatory. However, all government organizations, private companies, and landlords are compelled to use the app. Noida is threatening to fine people if the app is not downloaded.”
The Court was hearing a plea challenging the mandatory downloading and use of the Aarogya Setu app for accessing public services.
Heavily relying on Justice KS Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr. v. Union of India, Gonsalves contended that “purpose limitation” as envisaged in the 2019 judgment was not followed by the Central government.
“This app (Aarogya Setu) is going all over the place. It is being used as an e-pass. It is being used for donation, telemedicine, etc. Even the health sector is very interested in the app,” he said.
Gonsalves stated that a data controller could not give data to third parties (in this case, the Centre) unless specific and informed consent is obtained from its users.
He also highlighted the drawbacks of the tracking app, stating that employers will now access their employees’ health status/condition, location, etc.
The Senior Advocate also shed light on the massive leaks of data stored on the app. In this regard, reliance was placed on multiple newspaper articles. However, the Court took preliminary objection to this, remarking, “We don’t go by newspaper articles. It is unsafe to rely on newspaper articles. What is the actual material to show that data has gone (from the app)?”
Gonsalves replied that the leaked data of the app’s users were available on the internet. Aarogya Setu’s contractors are showing that there are massive leaks of data, he added.
According to an article published in The Economic Times, the Court was informed that the data of over 10,000 COVID-19 patients who downloaded the app found its way to the internet.
Referring to the app’s terms and conditions, Gonsalves pointed out that some information is collected and stored on a server operated by the Government of India when one registers on the app. However, the Centre is refuting this now in its affidavit, he argued.
Last month, the Court had sought the response of the Central government on the data collected by it when a person downloads and uses the Aarogya Setu mobile application.
The Centre will make its submissions on December 15.