Kerala govt must ensure confidentiality of call records of Covid positive patients: HC

The Kerala High Court last week directed the state government to ensure confidentiality of Call Detail Record (CDR) details collected to trace Covid-19 positive patients and to ensure that the CDR details so collected were not used for any other purpose.

A division bench of the Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly Ramesh Chennithala challenging the circular dated August 11 directing the police to work with BSNL and Vodafone to ensure the collection of CDRs of COVID-19 positive patients.

The Petitioner had argued that the collection of CDRs of COVID-19 positive patients would be in breach of privacy and amounted to surveillance; it was not necessary for tracing the location of COVID-19 positive patients as contended by the police.

It was also argued by the petitioner that as per the said circular, CDR collection had been started by the police but the nature of the use of tens of thousands CDRs of COVID19 positive patients was still unknown.

On the other hand, Additional Advocate General submitted that the apprehension of the petitioner that there would be unauthorized access by third parties was without any basis. He added that the CDR was strictly confidential and was used for the limited purpose of identifying the tower location. Once the location of the COVID positive patients via the tower they used had been identified, the CDR was immediately destroyed.

The government also argued that other than the tower location, there was no other method for tracing the places where a COVID positive patient had visited or the persons with whom the patient had established contact. The government’s counsel added that CDR details contained the mobile tower location and the contacts of the COVID-19 patients and segregating tower location alone was not possible.

The Court accepted the submissions of the state government and closed the PIL, directing it to follow what it submitted before the court in terms of confidentiality of CDR details and no third party access to the same.

The court also rejected the request of the petitioner to implead the service provider in the matter. However, on the request of the petitioner that the State issue a corrigendum in the circular to the effect that CDR details of COVID-19 positive patients were being collected only for the purpose of identifying the tower location, the Court said it was open to the respondents to consider the same.

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