K’taka Govt publishes details of foreign returnees raising privacy concerns

The Karnataka Government published contact details of thousands of Karnataka residents who returned from abroad since March 10. The list for each district with details of the person’s residential address has now raised privacy concerns as it has started circulating on social media.

The details are on the official website of the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Karnataka. The site has a district-wise list with the date of arrival, last date of quarantine, place of departure, place of arrival and the person’s address, including house number. The website has published such details for more than 14,000 residents in Bengaluru.

Amid complaints from healthcare staff and airline crew members from different parts of the country about discrimination and ostracisation faced by them in society, the government’s move has many eyebrows.

However, the health department feels that containing the spread of coronavirus in the state is more important than respecting individual’s privacy. “It is the decision of the government,” said a senior official.

Deputy Chief Minister Ashwath Narayan said that this was done “in the larger interest of society”.

“The source of this infection is foreign returnees. So it is important to stop the spread there. We are publishing details so that people can be careful when going near them. It is only a matter of 14 days. Under the Epidemic Diseases Act, states can take such measures,” said Narayan.

The state reported the second death due to the virus on Wednesday even as the number of positive rose to 40.

When asked about the possibility of people being targeted and ostracised, Narayan said, “This is not done to target anybody. It is only a precautionary measure. When we advised people to stay home, they violated it. The BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) and police are pasting notices outside their homes and stamping hands in Bengaluru, but we may not be able to do this across every nook and corner. This is for people around those quarantined to be aware”.

The list was uploaded on Twitter by Subodh Yadav, Central Nodal Officer for Karnataka to deal with the Covid19 crisis, on Tuesday and BBMP Commissioner BH Anil Kumar on Wednesday.

While some appreciated the move, others criticised it.