Coders flag host of is­sues, of­fer tips to im­prove Aar­o­gya Setu

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HTSPOTLIGH­T - Bi­nayak Das­gupta and Deek­sha Bhard­waj let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

NEW DELHI: In less than 48 hours since the An­droid code of the Aar­o­gya Setu mobile ap­pli­ca­tion was thrown open for re­view, at least 176 is­sues of var­i­ous lev­els of sever­ity was flagged by the soft­ware de­vel­oper com­mu­nity to help the govern­ment iden­tify and plug holes -- from the way it uses Blue­tooth for con­tact trac­ing to ty­pos in the text.

The num­ber and na­ture of sug­ges­tions that poured in could make Aar­o­gya Setu, now be­ing used by over 100 mil­lion In­di­ans, one of the first big govern­ment projects to be im­proved through pub­lic in­puts, ex­perts said.

“Peo­ple have raised a lot of is­sues and while among these, many may be mi­nor, what it re­ally shows is par­tic­i­pa­tory gov­er­nance in the mak­ing,” said Srini­vas Ko­dali, an independen­t re­searcher work­ing on tech­nol­ogy, data and gov­er­nance.

“But it needs to be ex­tended to other gov­er­nance ap­pli­ca­tions and IT sys­tems,” he added.

The code of Aar­o­gya Setu ap­pli­ca­tion for An­droid phones was shared at 12am on Wed­nes­day on code-shar­ing web­site GitHub. A re­view of is­sues posted by peo­ple var­ied from con­cerns over the way the app de­ployed Blue­tooth, ty­pos in the text dis­played by the ap­pli­ca­tion and sug­ges­tions for im­prove­ments.

“All sug­ges­tions are un­der re­view by the tech­ni­cal team,” said Ab­hishek Singh, CEO of My­Gov.

An IT min­istry official, who asked not to be named, added that the tech­ni­cal team has been in­structed to no­tify My­Gov in case of a se­ri­ous is­sue .

So far, no “sig­nif­i­cant” devel­op­ment has been flagged, added the official.

How­ever, some posts said that the ver­sion avail­able for users to down­load through the Google Play store is not the ver­sion for which the code was made pub­lic.

One of the more se­ri­ous con­cerns, flagged by Syd­ney-based de­vel­oper Jim Mus­sared, con­cerned the way con­tact-trac­ing ap­pli­ca­tions use Blue­tooth to de­ter­mine whether peo­ple have been in close con­tact with an­other per­son.

The vul­ner­a­bil­ity, which has at least been iden­ti­fied in Aus­tralia’s COVIDSafe ap­pli­ca­tion, al­lows for long-term track­ing of users and pos­si­bly en­ables other Blue­tooth-based at­tack vec­tors, the global vul­ner­a­bil­ity list­ing of the prob­lem showed.

“We have not con­firmed that the is­sue ex­ists in the Aar­o­gya Setu app, we just wanted to reach out to the team so they could clar­ify for sure. Given that it af­fects other apps it seemed im­por­tant to check with them, but we haven’t been able to get a re­ply by email yet,” said Mus­sared in an email.

The re­searcher added that there have been sev­eral is­sues in con­tact-trac­ing apps from mul­ti­ple na­tions, and that many of these are due to us­ing Blue­tooth in this man­ner

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