But although the app’s growth is unprecedented, it is extraordinary in an even more important way: if you don’t install it, you might lose your job, get fined, or go to jail. While official policy is that downloading the app is voluntary, the truth is that government employees are required to use it, while major private employers and landlords are mandating it as well. Many countries are developing limited services that use Bluetooth or GPS to give “exposure notifications” to people who have interacted with someone found to have covid-19. And on top of this, Aarogya Setu (which means “a bridge to health” in Hindi) also offers access to telemedicine, an e-pharmacy, and diagnostic services. But critics have expressed concern because it is not open source, despite an Indian government mandate that its apps make their code available to the public. Today, at least 1 million people have been given orders to use it, including central government workers and employees of private companies like the food delivery services Zomato and Swiggy. The Israeli government’s tactics have been the subject of a legal battle that made its way up to the country’s Supreme Court and legislature. That system will be released in just a few days, but it now comes with rules that include requiring user consent and banning location tracking —neither of which Aarogya Setu complies with. Kumar says Google engineers have been in close contact with Aarogya Setu’s developers, and his team will evaluate whether they can still implement the decentralized Silicon Valley system, which is intended to preserve privacy. “There is no effort made by the state to earn citizen trust,” says Anivar Aravind, executive director at the civic-technology organization Indic Project.
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