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Gov't delivers rebuke to US for suspecting Covid app of rights abuse

Jakarta Globe - April 17, 2022

Fana Suparman & Heru Andriyanto, Jakarta – A senior Indonesian minister on Saturday lashed a recent US government report alleging that the Peduli Lindungi application, which is designed for smartphone users to curb the spread of Covid-19 and restrict people's movement during the pandemic, could amount to misuse of personal data by the government.

Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD said the app was invented to deal with the pandemic in "the best way possible" and that in some aspects Indonesia's handling of the health crisis is way much better than the US.

In the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices published by the US Department of State on Wednesday, the app was mentioned under the subtitle "Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence".

"The [Indonesian] government developed Peduli Lindungi [Care Protect], a smartphone application used to track Covid-19 cases. Government regulations sought to stop the spread of the virus by requiring individuals entering public spaces like malls to check in using the application," it says.

"The application also stores information on individuals' vaccination status. NGOs expressed concerns about what information was gathered by the application and how this data was stored and used by the government," adds the report without citing any NGO name.

Mahfud said the app solely aims to monitor people's movement and ensures that only Covid-free and vaccinated people travel across districts and provinces at the height of the pandemic.

"The Indonesian government created the Peduli Lindungi application so that we can handle the Covid pandemic in the best way possible," Mahfud said.

The app contains the vaccination status of users and automatically links the results of their antigen or polymerase chained reaction tests conducted at authorized clinics. It was developed to help the government enforce travel restriction policies which, for example, required negative Covid test and full vaccination status for air passengers.

Users are also required to upload their travel plan including flight number, estimated time of arrival, and recent travel history – details that do not classify as sensitive personal information during the outbreak of a highly contagious disease.

The app does have users' population identification numbers, addresses, and other personal information but those are also the same data any citizen must fill in when applying for an ID card from the government.

"If people get upset because they must scan [QR code] before entering a shopping mall or because their movement is restricted, that's part of the consequences," Mahfud said.

"At the global level, Indonesia's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic is considered as good, even better than America," he added.

The US report provides a long list of "significant human rights issues" in Indonesia including, among other things, "credible reports" of unlawful or arbitrary killings by government security forces; torture by police; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary and unlawful interference with privacy; serious abuses in the conflict in Papua and West Papua Provinces, including unlawful civilian harm, torture, and physical abuses; and serious restrictions on free expression and media, including unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists and religious figures, censorship, and the existence of criminal libel laws.

It goes further by alleging "serious restrictions on internet freedom" in the country whose citizens can actually visit virtually any website they want, although the government does restrict access to pornography sites.

Source: https://jakartaglobe.id/news/govt-delivers-rebuke-to-us-for-suspecting-covid-app-of-rights-abus