On May 30, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a fresh set of guidelines for lockdown 5.0, another phase in India’s attempt to battle the coronavirus epidemic. Many more activities will be allowed from June 8. Much like the directives they replace, the new guidelines also contain a provision requiring employers to “ensure that Aarogya Setu is installed by all employees having compatible mobile phones”. The mandate is to be discharged on a “best effort basis” by the employer.

Aarogya Setu is a contact-tracing mobile app developed by the National Informatics Centre that seeks to utilise location data sourced from personal mobile phones of users to help the authorities in tracing individual cases of infection to contain the epidemic. The app is supposed to let users know if there is a Covid-19 positive case in the vicinity. However, the app involves data gathering at an unprecedented level, which includes a user’s name, gender, age, mobile number, travel and smoking history as well as location and address.

More troublesome, the state can watch the user’s movements. This access to sensitive personal data comes without a sunset clause, limiting when it will end. India’s Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, has not become law and so India lacks a robust...

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