This is in contrast to the May 1 MHA order, which had made the use of Aarogya Setu app mandatory for all public as well as private employees.

A mobile phone screen displaying the Aarogya Setu
Coronavirus Coronavirus Monday, May 18, 2020 - 12:41

The new guidelines by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on the lockdown in place from May 18 to May 31 have softened its earlier directive mandating the download of the government's contact-tracing app Aarogya Setu. The May 17 order states that employers should ensure “on best effort basis” that their employees install Aarogya Setu on their phones. This is in contrast to the May 1 MHA order, which had explicitly made the use of Aarogya Setu mandatory for all public as well as private employees.

“Aarogya Setu enables early identification of potential risk of infection, and thus acts as a shield for individuals and the community. With a view to ensuring safety in offices and workplaces, employees on best effort basis should ensure that Aarogya Setu is installed by all employees having compatible mobile phones,” the new guidelines on lockdown 4.0 state. 

The guidelines add, “District authorities may advise individuals to install the Aarogya Setu application on compatible mobile phones and regularly update their health status on the app. This will facilitate timely provision of medical attention to those individuals who are at risk.”

The May 1 guidelines had drawn criticism, with many privately employed professionals questioning why the government had made it mandatory. 

“The use of Arogya Setu app shall be made mandatory for all employees, both private and public. It shall be the responsibility of the Head of the respective Organizations to ensure 100% coverage of this app among the employees,” the May 1 guidelines had said.

Also read: ‘Why force download of Aarogya Setu app?’ Private sector employees ask

Later, concerns were also raised over privacy issues of the app, after an ethical hacker who goes by the name Elliot Anderson on Twitter pointed out several security concerns within the app. He had tweeted to the official Aarogya Setu handle and had said that "a security issue has been found" in the app and that "privacy of 90 million Indians is at stake".

At the time, the government had categorically rejected this claim, stating no data or security breach was identified in the app and that "no personal information of any user has been proven to be at risk by this ethical hacker".

Also read: Hacker points out flaw in Aarogya Setu: No data breach, says govt

Earlier, the government had issued directions making Aarogya Setu mandatory for stranded Indians who are brought back from abroad as part of the Vande Bharat Mission. The Railways too has made it mandatory for passengers to download Aarogya Setu and also made it compulsory for passengers to list their destination address before they could book tickets on the IRCTC portal. It has also made wearing masks and social distancing mandatory during travel.

Several courts had also been moved against the use of the app, with pleas flagging concerns over data storage and accessibility of private information of COVID-19 patients and contacts. The Delhi High Court and Kerala High Court both are hearing pleas against the app and the case in Kerala HC had sought a stay on the mandatory use of the application.

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