Upholding COVID-19 patients' privacy, the Kerala High Court on Friday, directed the state government to anonymize all data collected and collated so far and allow US-firm Sprinklr to access data only after anonymization is completed, while hearing pleas challenging the Kerala govt- Sprinklr deal. Moreover, the court also directed Sprinlklr to not breach data confidentiality, not advertise, and to return the data as soon as their contract expires - deleting residual data. The matter is set to be listed after three weeks.
Moreover, the court ordered the Kerala government to inform individuals that the data will be accessed by Sprinklr and obtain their consent. The Centre had argued that the state government must clarify that sufficient safeguards are taken to protect citizens' privacy while sharing data with the foreign firm for COVID-19 surveillance. The Kerala government had roped in the US-based firm to handle data compiled by the government in its Coronavirus battle efforts.
Reports state that the CPI(M)-led government used Sprinklr, a SaaS (Software as a Service) company to aide grassroots health workers to compile data on people about their symptoms and health conditions. The company had reportedly developed a tool to assist doctors and medical officials to choose if a particular citizen needed hospitalisation, based on their inputs. This has raised major concerns of privacy.
The controversy erupted when Leader of the Opposition and Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala alleged that the government had allowed the US firm to access health data of around 1.75 lakh people under quarantine without taking their consent. He added that the government did not follow due procedures in choosing Sprinklr and risked the transfer of crucial health data of the citizens to pharmaceutical companies. The government, in response, has defended its move stating that it needed an app to collated data which was collected on a massive scale and that Sprinklr’s tool was already ready and needed customization, as per reports.
With over 1.2 lakh individuals under observation, Kerala has undertaken a huge testing drive to identify and isolate the highest number of cases in the state. Moreover, the state which saw the first Coronavirus case in India - when a student landed in Thrissur from Wuhan, has now reduced the number of cases to 448 with just 3 deaths. Ahead of PM Modi's Rs 15,000 crore relief package, the state government had Govt introduced Rs 20,000 Cr relief & support package along with free rations for all and has also announced thousands of community kitchens throughout the state and home-delivery of meals. Kerala effective tackling of COVID-19 has gained praise from the Centre and several global bodies.