COVID-19: Flight passengers subjected to harassment as private info leaked

COVID-19: Flight passengers subjected to harassment as private info leaked
COVID-19: Flight passengers subjected to harassment as private info leaked

Representative Image: The details of over 160 individuals who had arrived by flight to Dimapur on March 24 via two flights—Air India and Indigo, including their personal cell phone numbers and home addresses were leaked on social media. (Image Courtesy: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay) 

 

Many people who flew into the State of Nagaland on March 24 and have been practicing self-isolation were in for a rude shock on April 13 as their personal details were leaked on social media

 

 

Morung Express News
Dimapur | April 14


Many people who flew into the State on March 24 and have been practicing self-isolation were in for a rude shock on April 13 as their personal details were leaked on social media. 


The details of over 160 individuals who had arrived by flight to Dimapur on March 24 via two flights—Air India and Indigo—were leaked along with their personal cell phone numbers and home addresses. 


The details were leaked after Nagaland reported its first COVID-19 case on April 12. The patient had arrived in Dimapur via an Air India flight on March 24. The State Government on April 13 informed that it has been able to trace all of his co-passengers who were on the same flight from Kolkata. 


However, as the document spread through social media, many people who figured in the list started receiving crank calls and text messages from strangers. The calls and messages ranged from people making polite inquiries to downright harassment and doxing. 


“I was shocked to see all my details which I thought were confidential,” said one person from Dimapur who figured in the list.


Late on Monday night, his WhatsApp was filled with messages. “Many asked me if I had the virus. Some started giving me advice on how to look after myself. Others queried about if I have been self-isolating,” he stated. 


“At first I replied to a few informing them that I had gone through all the protocol set by the government and have finished my quarantine period with no symptoms. And like everybody else, I’m staying home. But there is only so much you can reply to. So I started blocking numbers and calls. But they are still continuing,” he said with exasperation.


For other passengers though, the messages have not been polite enquiries. 


“I’ve been getting vulgar, creepy messages. It started Monday evening as soon as the list was leaked and the messages have not stopped,” one Indigo passenger stated, adding that she has completed her self-quarantine and has no symptoms.

While being hounded by unsolicited messages and calls, she further expressed frustration that calls to the Health Department on what course of action to take have been handled in a lackadaisical manner. 


Another passenger from Kohima said that some people have gone to the extent of tracing her social media when she turned off her phone. She is now considering approaching the authorities. There have been other similar cases where people have been doxed online and are being subjected to virtual harassment.  


One passenger from Dimapur, fed up with the rumours spreading, put up a public message on his social media accounts, detailing how he has been following all health safety protocols. He even welcomed queries from inquisitive people. 
The passenger has expressed his concerns to health officials, who while understanding the predicament, said that the government is looking into the source of the leak.  


“It’s okay if the government wants to inform people of those under quarantine in their areas. But this should be done in a proper manner through the government and municipal, colony or village authorities without compromising our private details and safety,” another passenger added. 


With their details out for all to see, some have also been ostracised in their own communities. 


One passenger said that rumours had spread about him sitting next to the person who tested positive for COVID-19, though he was travelling in a different plane. 


“Moreover, my neighbours hurriedly packed and left their houses. My extended cousins who came to meet me after my complete home quarantine were also enquired by their neighbours and started keeping distance. I felt many eyes started watching me from their houses and I feel insecure even to step out of the house now. My locality council chairman asked me to go for a blood test immediately without the official order from the medical team,” he stated.


Life has not been easy for anyone these days, with fear and anxiety dominating people’s psyches due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But those under home quarantine are under added pressure, and with their personal details leaked, the stress and anxiety has increased. 


When contacted by The Morung Express, Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Kesonyu Yhome stated that the Department of Health and Family Welfare is taking this issue “seriously.” He informed that “proper direction” will be issued to health workers if anyone is found leaking such information. 


The source of the leak meanwhile is yet to be ascertained, he stated.