Govt open-sources code for Aarogya Setu, India's contact-tracking App

NewsBharati    27-May-2020
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New Delhi, May 27: Week after a security researcher discovered many loopholes related privacy issues in the Aarogya Setu app, NITI Ayog CEO Amitabh Kant opened the source code of the coronavirus tracking app on GitHub repository. It is to address concerns around the privacy of data being collected by the app.
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"Transparency, privacy, and security have been the core design principle of Aarogya Setu. Opening the source code to the developer community signifies the Government of India's continuing principal to these commitments. No other government product anywhere in the world has been open-sourced at this scale. All COVID-19 related apps put together, Aarogya Setu is bigger than all of them," Amitabh Kant, chief executive of NITI Aayog said.
The source code for the Android version of the application will be available for review and collaboration on open-source code repository Github. The government said all subsequent updates will be made open-source through this repository. The app is also available for iOS, and even for KaiOS-based feature phones like the JioPhone. The iOS and KaiOS source code will also be released soon.
The app which was launched on April 2 was developed by the Ministry of Elec Electronics and Information Technology under the guidance of NIC.
The Government’s move to make Aarogya Setu app open source comes just days after it updated the app’s privacy policy allowing developers to reverse engineer it to detect flaws in the system.
The Aarogya Setu app currently has over 11.50 crore registered users across all supported platforms. During the conference, Kant highlighted that the app already helped more than 1,40,000 people by alerting them about the potential risk of the coronavirus infection using its intrinsic contact tracing technology.
There is an additional Rs 1 lakh bounty for suggesting improvements in the Aarogya Setu app, the ministry said.
What is Open-Sourcing?
Open-sourcing an app in which people can look at the code and suggest improvements or issues, and also use the code under a license to develop similar products. An open-source model also allows for other countries that may be exploring digital contact tracing to get a boost by adopting already-mature, secure, and publicly-validated code.
Programmers who have access to a computer program's source code can improve that program by adding features to it or fixing parts that don't always work correctly. It means anyone can view and modify open-source software, someone might spot and correct errors or omissions that a program's original authors might have missed.
And because so many programmers can work on a piece of open-source software without asking for permission from original authors, they can fix, update, and upgrade open-source software more quickly than they can proprietary software.