Chennai: The Chengalpattu district administration on Wednesday put up a map of the locations of COVID-19 patients in the district, on Facebook. While the initiative was widely welcomed, the officials concerned also gave away the phone numbers of the patients, in a gross breach of privacy.
In some cases, the source of infection was also mentioned.
The post was taken down after the officials were alerted, but the data continues to be accessible to those who have saved the link.
A 29-year-old vegetable vendor, who is suspected to have contracted the virus from Koyambedu, told Express he was not contacted for permission to post his private information on social media. “I was not aware of this. As it is we are facing stigma in our neighbourhoods,” the man said.
Details of those who attended the religious conference in Delhi, were also published online.
“It has been 20 days since we got discharged. We were sick and tired of all the demeaning comments targeted at us by people we know. It had just started to abate, and now the government has given a chance for us to be attacked again,” said a 30-year-old man, who is marked on the map as ‘contact of positive Delhi Tabligi Conference’. “How is this information about how we got infected going to benefit anyone?”
District Collector John Louis defended the move saying as per protocol, only names have to be withheld.
However, there are apps available freely available in the market that can pull up names of persons using their mobile numbers. “This is being done to ensure people know if their neighbours or someone they know have been infected. Source of infection has to be mentioned as per protocol,” he said.
While both the Centre’s Arogya Setu and Chennai Corporation’s monitoring app show the streets where there are positive cases, neither publish any private information of patients. “Patient related info is not published due to privacy issues. Only the street name is shown,” says MP Azhagu Pandia Raja who created the app for the corporation. The issue has been brought to the notice of Health Secretary Beela Rajesh.
Details of those who attended the religious conference in Delhi, along with their source of infection, phone numbers, and address, were also published online