Is privacy a myth? Elliot Alderson replies to questions on the Arogya Setu App

French ethical hacker claims to have been inundated by insults by Indians on social media. But while blocking them, he went ahead to address some of the concerns voiced by Indians about the App

Photo Courtesy: social media
Photo Courtesy: social media

NH Web Desk

The National Health Service in the UK just published the source code of its contact tracing app, tweeted Elliot Alderson, a pseudonym used by the French ethical hacker in the news for confirming that the Arogya Setu app is a surveillance tool.

Any app which the government is forcing you to download and which gives you the ability to snoop on neighbours and find out who among them is unwell or has tested positive, he has argued, is a surveillance app. If the app ha nothing to hide, he said, it should have no difficulty in disclosing its source codes. An open source app is what most countries follow, he pointed out.

Alderson also makes the telling point that despite mass surveillance and far more intrusive use of technology, China continues to struggle in coping with the coronavirus.

Alderson on Friday tweeted : “NHS published the source code of its contact tracing app. Your turn @SetuArogya”.

Questions raised by Indians about the Arogya Setu app and his response follows.

  • We are in the 21st century. We have the technology and tracking people’s phones will end COVID-19 for sure.

    Just look at China. You can’t even imagine how China is monitoring its population. And still they are unable to avoid the spread of the virus.
  • ·Without a contact tracing app, it's impossible to defeat COVID-19

    This is not true. This is not the first pandemic and contact tracing without an app has been there for decades.
  • Some people don't have enough food or electricity, in India we don't care about privacy

    Some people care and again everyone deserves privacy. Let's give them access to basic needs and respect their privacy at the same time. It's not incompatible.
  • It's ok, my government told me that this is temporary, they will delete my data and I will be able to uninstall their contact tracing app

    You are dreaming my friend. All these surveillance systems are here to stay. I am ready to bet a beer if you want.

  • I'm already giving my data to Facebook, Twitter and Tinder, it doesn't matter if I give my data to my government"

    It's not because you have very bad habits in term of privacy that you have to continue. You are the one in charge. Only you can improve that.
  • I trust my government. I will install the app anyway.

    I respect that. It’s a free country. Do what you want but be aware that you are giving up your privacy in exchange of some hypothetical protection
  • We need the App to fight COVID-19

No. You don’t. You need

· Tests to identify infected people

· Masks, Gloves, PPEs

· Contact tracers

· Respect social distancing

· Isolate infected people

An App will not break the chain

  • It’s not an issue; it is a feature of the app

    Yes. By design. #ArogyaSetu is a surveillance system. They don’t care about the user privacy. But, in theory, giving the ability to know if your neighbour is sick is not a ‘feature’ of the app.
  • The government said the app is “unhackable"
    Nothing is unhackable. With enough motivation and skill, everything can be hacked.
  • Do you have to worry?
    When a government is forcing people to install an App, it is probably time to worry.
  • My 20-years old brother told me you are a fraud and the issues you found are not real issues"

    The 2 issues I found can probably be classified as medium. Aarogya Setu developers are not in agreement with your brother because they fixed the issues.
  • "Privacy is for the rich"
    No, privacy is a fundamental right. Everyone deserves it.
  • Privacy is a myth in India.
    Someone sent me the list of the patients with confirmed COVID-19 infections. In this list you have the name, age, sex, address and phone number of the patients. These lists are available publicly on WhatsApp

This journalist is sharing on Twitter the personal data of confirmed COVID-19 patients.

  • "Can they still track me if I uninstall the app?"
    Of course no, at least not with the app because the app is no more on your phone.
  • "You are just an attention seeker, you just want more followers"

    You have no idea how painful is it to have a big twitter account. You received thousands of messages, comments, insults. I don't earn money with it. Sometimes, it's very cool but there are a lot of drawbacks.
  • "Why are wasting your time on Twitter?"
    The impact. Together we made incredible things. Every opportunity to raise privacy awareness should be taken. Especially when a lot of media scrutinise your tweets .

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