Telcos, DoT in sync with states to track movement of Covid-19 patients

Mumbai: The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and mobile phone operators are working in tandem with state governments to make use of name knowledge of subscribers to carefully monitor the motion of Covid-19 optimistic sufferers, apart from preserving an in depth watch on thousands and thousands of migrant labourers to assist them with meals and discover employment.

But officers clarified that solely location particulars of calls had been getting used for the aim, and never the detailed call data records (CDRs), which can have raised issues round privacy and state surveillance.

Privacy consultants, nonetheless, stated such sharing nonetheless triggers issues round knowledge privateness since no permission has been sought from subscribers.

“If a affected person strikes away from his quarantine location, it means he has moved away from his geo-fencing area and alerts exit to businesses together with police,” stated an official conscious of the work performed by completely different authorities our bodies on Covid-19.

“The DoT is also tracking the cell sites of the patients and places they visited for 15 days prior to being tested positive. This helps to check up on those who have come in contact with the patient,” added the official.

The DoT can be monitoring thousands and thousands of migrants as they head again to their dwelling cities, utilizing name knowledge. According to officers, migrants from Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Surat, Pune and some different cities are being traced and state governments are alerted, in order that meals provides may be despatched. “These migrants can then be also directed for work in areas of agriculture, etc in those areas.”

This ongoing train although has been a pressure on telcos who’ve to offer knowledge of cell towers, and so on. of individuals at brief discover.

“Large number of data is being asked for and we do not have access to caller locations etc on our laptops. Also, there are security checks we have to do before giving away such data,” stated a senior govt at one of many three personal operators, who didn’t need to be named.

Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio didn’t reply to ET’s queries and nor did Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the trade physique that represents the three operators.

“Where is the transparency, who has access to this data, what data is anonymised and who is it shared with? Also, why is this being done without informing and where is consent of people whose information including geo location is being taken,” stated Nikhil Pahwa, knowledge privateness and web neutrality activist. “Cell tower locations are based on signal strength and can be widely inaccurate.”

This is the second time in the previous few months that DoT has sought caller knowledge in large numbers from telcos. Last time round in February, telcos strongly protested DoT’s transfer, taking pictures off letters to flag issues round privateness. But in March, DoT refuted allegations that decision knowledge data (CDRs) sought from carriers was a breach of privateness and amounted to surveillance, saying that the small print shall be used to check poor community high quality, name drops and cross connection complaints.

Telcos, who had initially slammed the transfer, later backtracked, saying they’d understood the DoT’s perspective and had cooperated with the division, provided that the info shared didn’t violate privateness of subscribers.

Similarly, this time too, officers stated there have been no CDRs requested for and solely location particulars of sure numbers wanted within the battle towards Covid-19. “There is no CDR asked for and DoT is working along with other departments like the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY), state and central government to tackle Covid-19,” added an official quoted above.

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