In a startling privacy violation, the Karnataka government published the home addresses of quarantined residents amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Bangalore Mirror reported. This was reportedly done as a deterrent to individuals who were breaking their quarantine and stepping outside. According to the documents accessed by MediaNama, the list published by the Karnataka government includes individuals who are not necessarily infected, but have all flown in from a foreign country recently, and have been asked to stay indoors for two weeks. The list contains their door number, PIN code, and which country they travelled from. This comes as India continues with day two of a 3-week long nationwide shutdown.
The government had earlier deleted a tweet announcing the measure, but district-wise lists of quarantined individuals’ addresses are still available on the website. What’s more, a PDF version of the consolidated list is doing the rounds on WhatsApp. One user even mapped out the addresses of quarantined people on Google Maps, which we reviewed; this essentially makes the list interactive and lets anyone see quarantined cases around them. It is unclear if these lists are even comprehensive; twitter user Tinu Cherian, who returned from abroad recently, pointed out that he couldn’t find himself on a consolidated version of the list.
Stigma around people related to the pandemic in India is growing. Air India staff working on rescue operations are facing hostility from neighbours, doctors treating COVID-19 patients are being evicted from their homes, and people from the North East are facing racist discrimination. Karnataka has moved today to take action against landlords evicting doctors. As for everyone else, it is unclear what protections they will receive, now that their information — whether they have the disease or not, or whether they stepped out or not — is in the public domain.
The Personal Data Protection Bill, which could prevent personally identifying information like this being published, has not yet passed, and the joint parliamentary committee’s report on the law will only be out in the parliament’s monsoon session.