Andhra Pradesh to Track Mobile Signals to Monitor Home Quarantined

Kanna Babu, IAS Special Commissioner (Disaster Management Authority), said it was within the purview of the law.

3 min read
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Days after the Karnataka government sought hourly selfies from those home quarantined, in yet another move to keep a check on those quarantined, now the Andhra Pradesh government has decided to track the mobile signals of those in home isolation. This massive exercise will be coordinated by the State Disaster Management Authority and the government has already partnered with the service providers in the state to roll out the project.

Sources in the Andhra Pradesh government told The Quint the monitoring will have two aspects to it. First, tracking the persons in quarantine in real time and second, to trace back the travel history of those who have tested positive.

While the decision has raised several eyebrows over violations of privacy, the government authorities said difficult times require such tough measures. Confirming the decision to The Quint, Kanna Babu, IAS Special Commissioner (Disaster Management Authority) said it was within the purview of the law.

Tracking Those in Quarantine

State Disaster Management has been given a tool – Covid Alerting & Tracking System – which can track the location of 27,000-odd people in quarantine, with the help of mobile service providers, .

“The authorities already have a database of mobile numbers of all these 27,000 people. Taking the base location as the location of the respective person's residence, the tool is equipped to alert the district authorities if the person travels beyond a 100 meters radius from the base location, thereby violating the norms of home quarantine,” said a source.

On receiving the alert, district authorities then reach out to the violator asking him to get back and do the needful. If the violator refuses to do so, the matter is escalated and the state authorities then jump into action.

Tracking Travel History

The second part of the exercise is to use the mobile signals to track the travel history of all positive cases in the state. The authorities have already sent the mobile phone details of the patients tested positive in the state to the service providers.

“The tracking agencies are getting the travel history of the patients up to 15 days. Once they have these details, the next step is to find out where the patients spend more than 15 minutes. This will help find out if there was any local transmission from the patients and based on this information, further action such as contacting people, quarantining and sanitising them will be undertaken.”
Sources to The Quint

According to a source, the government has already mapped the travel history of 18 patients out of the 23 tested positive so far.

Violations of Privacy?

When questioned if this project would be a clear violation of privacy, Babu said the tracking was within the rules.

“The point here is this is done in a larger public interest. The disaster management act also empowers us to collect any information for mitigating or reducing the impact (of the virus). So we are doing this projec invoking that provision and in larger public interest. We will use the data for only for this purpose (tracking coronavirus cases).”
K Kanna Babu, IAS Special Commissioner to The Quint

He further added that a decision was taken to collect the information passively instead of asking people to download an app was because of the logistical issues involved and lack of time available. He also said that the tracking would help identify those prone to violating quarantine, and ensure they are shifted to institutional quarantine at the earliest.

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