COVID-19: Activists voice privacy concerns over leak of unverified patients list on social media

A list of 10 names, with addresses and mobile phone numbers of people who supposedly attended the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi, has been circulating on mobile messaging applications in the Nilgiris

Published - April 02, 2020 04:46 pm IST - UDHAGAMANDALAM:

The “leak” of a list of names on social media of 10 persons from the Nilgiris who attended the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi has raised serious privacy concerns among activists here, with many calling for action against the people responsible for the leaks.

The list, which began circulating on mobile messaging applications on Wednesday, not only has the names of 10 ten people who supposedly attended the event in Delhi last month, but also their phone numbers, addresses and the police stations nearest to their homes. The list also had unverified “test results” of four persons, declaring that four of the 10 people in the list had tested positive for COVID-19.

Following the leak, the list quickly started making the rounds of various mobile messaging applications, with many residents mistaking the list to have been released by the State government.

However, on Thursday, the Nilgiris district administration categorically stated that the test results of the people who attended the event in Delhi, and who have been placed in isolation have yet to arrive. “We do not know who started circulating this list, but it is unverified and as yet, till Thursday afternoon, there are no known cases of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the Nilgiris,” said an official from the district administration.

Activists here are more worried about the breach of privacy which led to the list being leaked in the first place. K. Vijayan, a Nilgiris-based lawyer and Director of the People’s Legal Forum, Tamil Nadu chapter, said that such leaks threatened communal harmony in the district. “It is completely irrelevant if anyone in the list has actually contracted the infection. What is concerning is that someone has taken the time to release the list of names of these individuals, which clearly indicates that there is malicious intent behind the leak,” said Mr. Vijayan, who called on the police to register a case against the persons responsible for sharing patients’ data while also calling for stricter protocols to maintain the privacy of individuals who are either in isolation or quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Nilgiris is a district renowned for its communal harmony, with people from different religions living side by side with each other for generations in peace and harmony. Immediate steps must be taken to identify the people or officials involved who revealed the names of patients to the public,” said Mr. Vijayan.

When contacted, Nilgiris district superintendent of police, V. Sasi Mohan, said that the police were looking into the issue.

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