COVID-19 Surveillance Working Paper

Hey folks, I have been studying the government usage of surveillance systems in the context of COVID-19. Have found a helpful article published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on location based surveillance and the questions we must ask governments. Sharing it with all of you as food for thought. Will continue sharing materials here as I go along in the process.


I actually came here after much stress about the Aarogya Sethu app. At first blush I am of course skeptical and this tweet lays out no concrete information about data ownership or chain of custody.

As usual “your data is safe and private” because we say so.

Frustrating thing is that explaining why you should care to most people is a whack-a-mole job. By the time you recover from the effort it takes to explain to one person, another 3 pop up all gung-ho about it.


Was doing some research on best practices for contact tracing apps like the Aarogya Setu app. Came across theis open letter by technologists which was shared with health authorities in the UK.

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Also what’s interesting is that in the same context, it refers to operationalising “collective mechanisms for social licensing”. I clicked on the corresponding hyperlink and found this interesting blog post to operationalise community consent. This is interesting since India’s Government keeps on referring to certain types of data as community data, but what that means in terms of actual administration remains unclear.


Hey folks,

Just to let you know IFF is developing a working paper on surveillance systems being built for COVID-19 by the Indian Government and governments across the world. The paper will be published sometime this week in an open format (where people can comment) and I would urge members of our community who have a background in technology to share how we can improve our documents.

The draft will be a work in progress and as we get useful insights we will continue to update the document periodically. Even as we work on finalising the finishing touches we may share some extracts with you just so as to gauge some preliminary insights as well.



Europe has released some recommendations on how technology systems like mobile applications and data may be used to respond public health crises like COVID-19

Hey folks,

Apple and Google have announced a partnership to bring contact tracing solutions to its entire global user base. Our paper will unpack this development and its merits and demerits as well.

This tech/app developed by MIT strikes the right balance apparently



Thanks so much for sharing! We will certainly check this out as we update our paper moving forward.

We have studied another MIT initiative called Private Kit: Safe Paths which you can check out here. If you had to compare the two, how would you say the two do?

Hi there

I think Private Kit is the implementation of the thing I shared - primarily through the Safe Paths technology, unless I’m missing something. I think it’s a good balance of accurate tracing and privacy protection. Do you think authorities in India can be convinced to enact something similar, with right inputs like your working paper?

Hi thanks for responding. We will study the PACT protocol when we are updating our working paper.

It will be live for public comments later today.

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IBM has a security (Secure Service Container - and privacy solution (Data Privacy Passports -

Secure Service Container are designed to protect against unauthorized data access even by privileged users. Basically, no super user (or big brother) who can look at everything.

Data Privacy Passports allow data to exit the core system but data which is visible to any user is based on a policy which allows specific data privileges to various kinds of users.

I can provide more details if you want.

Thanks for sharing this Suresh.

Our working paper is finally out. You can see a google docs version here and PDF version here

Would encourage anyone who comes across it to give it a read and offer feedback, and to circulate within your networks. You can either put comments on the Google Doc or send an email as per the instructions which are provided. We hope to evaluate this feedback and update it before sending it to key stakeholders.


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Hey Folks,

Please see here a blog post which unpacks some of our key issues of the Aarogya Setu application. Please feel free to let us know if we have missed out on anything or ways in which we can improve our position.

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Is Aarogya Setu putting our privacy at risk? Here’s a short explainer video on the @SetuAarogya application wherein our staffer @DebSidharth explains the privacy concerns raised by the app.

This is our first attempt at video creation virtually. Support us, share and subscribe to our Youtube channel.


Hey, is the paper/discussion taking into consideration the change in Terms and conditions of the app by the Government?

In Part 2 of this explainer series on key themes of IFF’s Working Paper on COVID-19, tech and informational privacy, we breakdown the paper’s analysis of Apple and Google’s announced partnership on contact tracing.

Give it a read:

Hello. The changes as such are modest and most of our concerns still stand. But the update to the working paper will certainly analyse changes which have been made


Has the working paper been published?