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Quarantine Alert System - Shanmugam IAS academy in coimbatore
Quarantine Alert System

COVID-19 QUARANTINE ALERT SYSTEM (CQAS)

What’s in news?

To track the COVID-19 cases across the country, the centre has launched an application.

Key data’s:

  • Name: The application called as “COVID-19 Quarantine Alert System (CQAS)”, a geo-fencing mobile application.
  • Purpose: To track the location of the violators of COVID-19 patients who have escaped from quarantine or isolation,
  • Works on: The application works based on the person’s mobile phone’s cell tower location which triggers e-mails and SMS alerts to an authorised government agency, when the patients move.
  • Operated by: It was launched and operated by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
  • Distance covered: This “geo-fencing” application covers a distance of up to 300 m.
  • Working: The system works as follows;
    • The system will collate phone data, including the device’s location, on a common secured platform and alert the local agencies in case of a violation by COVID-19 patients under watch or in isolation.
    • It is said that the location information is received periodically over a secure network for the authorised cases with due protection of the data received.
  • Seeking approval: The States have been asked to seek the approval of their Home Secretaries under the provisions of Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, for the specified mobile phone numbers to request the DoT to provide information by email or SMS in case of violation of “geo-fencing”.
  • The particular provision under the Act, amended multiple times since 1885, authorises the State or the Centre to access information of a user’s phone data in case of “occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of the public safety.”
  • Kerala was one of the first States to use geo-fencing to track COVID-19 cases.

What is Geo-fencing?

  • A geofence is a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area.
  • Geofencing is a location-based service in which an app or other software uses GPS, RFID, Wi-Fi or cellular data to trigger a pre-programmed action when a mobile device or RFID tag enters or exits a virtual boundary set up around a geographical location, known as a geofence.

Addressing the privacy concerns:

  • It said that the phone number should be deleted from the system after the period for which location monitoring is required is over.
  • The data would be deleted four weeks from thereon.
  • The data collected shall be used only for the purpose of Health Management in the context of COVID-19 and is strictly not for any other purposes. Any violation in this regard would attract penal provisions under the relevant laws.

Issues:

  • The geo-fencing will only work if the quarantined person has a mobile phone from Airtel, Vodafone-Idea or Reliance Jio.
  • “BSNL/MTNL” do not support location based services. BSNL and MTNL are government-owned.

Links to note:

https://www.iasipstnpsc.in/thirumathikart/

https://www.thehansindia.com/telangana/hyderabad-app-to-keep-tabs-on-quarantined-people-615391

https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/covid-19-kerala-police-using-geofencing-ensure-people-stay-home-quarantine-121027

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