COVID-19 contact-tracing app Aarogya Setu is now an open-source software. The Indian government made it official by releasing the source code of the Android app to a public GitHub repository. Experts are praising the step proclaiming it to be beneficial in the public interest.
Niti Aayog took the decision after several agencies pointed out security and privacy concerns related to the app. The announcement was made after 41 days of the Aarogya Setu app launch date and after the app has gathered private data of 10 crores registered users. Niti Aayog said that about 98 percent of the total users are using the app on Android. The iOS and KaiOS codes will be released after two weeks, said the authority. The server codes that process user’s data will be open-sourced in the near future.
“Opening the source code to the developer community signifies our continuing commitment to the principles of transparency and collaboration. With the release of the source code in the public domain, we are looking to expanding collaboration and to leverage the expertise of top technical brains amongst the talented youth and citizens of our nation and to collectively build a robust and secure technology solution to help support the work of frontline health workers in fighting this pandemic together, ” said the authorities in a press statement.
What does the open-sourcing of the Aarogya Setu app mean?
The Indian government is looking to built Aarogya Setu as a world-class app for contact tracing. Open-source software enables programmers to test the code in better ways to check for security vulnerabilities. Keeping this as objective, the government has released the source code inviting top developers to crack vulnerabilities.
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Hopefully the app won’t be viewed as a potential privacy risks after this development. During the press conference, MEITY Secretary clarified that the app does not exchange personally-identifiable data, and only uploads data to the server in case of positive identification.
The Bug Bounty Program
The Niti Aayog has also announced a bug bounty program – first of its kind for a government app. Experts finding security bugs will be entitled to Rs 1 lakh bounty. Additionally, those suggesting efficient code improvements will get Rs 1 lakh as well. The bug bounty details will be published on MyGov official website later.