Coronavirus: France Approves Contact Tracing App

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French minister defends centralised approach of its Covid-19 contact-tracing app, citing the French and UK’s nuclear deterrent

France looks set to join the United Kingdom with its ‘centralised’ Covid-19 contact-tracing app, which has now been officially approved for launch in that country.

The UK and France are two of the most notable European countries that have opted the centralised approach with their respective contact-tracing apps.

Last week Google and Apple officially released their decentralised Coronavirus contact-tracing APIs, which they believe will offer a robust means of tracking the virus, without raising privacy hackles.

france spy snoop surveillance © Andrei Marincas Shutterstock

Centralised vs decentralised

Contact-tracing systems (both human and app based) are intended to help countries ease their Coronavirus pandemic lockdowns while keeping infections in check.

The UK, Japan, France, Norway, Singapore, India, and Australia, have been amongst the most prominent countries that have rejected the model favoured by Google and Apple, preferring to use a “centralised” approach in which data is processed on state-controlled servers.

The “decentralised” model of Google and Apple carries out all data processing on the devices themselves, allowing for increased privacy, and that approach is being backed by countries such as Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Ireland and Canada.

And now France will launch its coronavirus contact-tracing app as soon as the weekend after it cleared two parliamentary votes, the BBC reported.

The country’s Senate reportedly approved its release by a vote of 187-to-127 on Wednesday evening, following an earlier 338-to-215 National Assembly vote.

A bug bounty scheme will be run to encourage the public to help identify any flaws in the software, after Australian researchers found issues with the UK app, following the British government’s decision to publish its app source code on GitHub.

StopCovid app

France’s StopCovid app will supplement work already being done by a French team of human contact tracers who are trying to identify people who are infected with the disease but unaware of the fact.

France it should be remembered had already asked Google and Apple for their ‘private’ Coronavirus tracing API to be a little less private, with the easing of data sharing with governments.

Both firms refused.

But France has defended its decision to press ahead with a centralised proprietary app.

“This is a French project, with the excellence but also the panache and some would say the stubbornness which characterises our country,” Digital Affairs Minister Cedric O was quoted by the BBC as saying on Wednesday.

“Is it really a coincidence that 22 countries have used the Apple-Google API [application programming interface], but not France and Britain, which are the only two countries in Europe with their own nuclear deterrent?,” he added.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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