Plea in Kerala High Court bats against mandatory use of Aarogya Setu app.

A plea in Kerala High Court seeks striking down the Centre’s guidelines directing mandatory use of the Aarogya Setu app. It has raised red flags about the misuse of the app as a potential government surveillance system and also security risks.

On May 1, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued orders and directions which made the use of the Aarogya Setu app mandatory for all employees of public and private enterprises. The same guidelines also warned of penal consequences if the directions were not followed.

The plea in the Kerala High wants consent-based, voluntary use of the app. In the interim, the plea has asked the court to restrain authorities from taking any penal action against those not using the app.

The plea has been filed by the general secretary of the Thrissur (Kerala) District Congress Committee. It argues that the directions are constitutional and violates various rights and freedom allowed to citizens.

As per the plea, the guidelines for mandatory use of the app are an attack on the right to informational autonomy, as guaranteed under the constitution. The plea argues that it coerces people, under the threat of penal action, to share personal information with a network that may or may not enjoy their confidence.

The plea also warns that the app collects sensitive personal information and interacts with various other devices, causing an exchange of information. In interaction with other devices, as per the privacy policy, the app allows for the sharing of personal information, timestamp and location coordinates. Such numerous exchanges expose the network to multiple points of attack by malicious actors.

The plea also notes how the app does not clarify which government ministries and departments will be able to access data, leading to concerns of governmental overreach. The plea submits that the system appears to be evolving into a surveillance system, with the government keen on widening the scope of the app.

The plea cautions that the “Terms of Service” of the app, provide blanket protection to the government from accountability in case of errors of violation of privacy.

Finally, the petition submits that the addition of penal consequences for not using is arbitrary in nature, leads to arm twisting of citizens, and should be stayed.

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