StopCovid: An unreachable objective?

Translated by Meyriam Bouali, proofread by Charlotte Borne

The government faces issues related to the tracing app mentioned by Emmanuel Macron, the French President, during his speech on 13 April, 2020. The Franco-German researchers who are responsible for developing the app, called « StopCovid », answered to some questions from thousands of Europeans on Saturday 18 April. But it does not meet the requirements.

 

When technology helps public health

StopCovid has been created to limit the spread of the virus after the end of the lockdown. The app aims at helping individuals to know if they were in contact with infected people or not, by using a data sharing system. More precisely, Covid-19-positive people will share a list of anonymous IDs related to people who have crossed paths with them during the incubation period of the virus. StopCovid will rely on mobile phones’ Bluetooth wireless technology. However, it will not use GPS technology for pinpointing user’s location.

U-turn from Germany

The members of the French Parliament are to speak out on this app on 28 April. They will definitely ask the government about the app’s usefulness and how it operates. Is it effective? How this may affect our daily life? What level of safety does that imply on reported data? Is there a risk of disclosure? In real terms, what are the limits of this app? Many issues are still unclear. The French data privacy regulator (CNIL) reviewed the app’s compliance with the French general data protection regulator (RGPD). The French CNIL has said they would « adjudicate on a further decision after the parliamentary debate ». They will particularly check if appropriate security measures have been taken. Germany has, however, ditched this technology and decided to not include a central collected data processing for the tracing app. France is one of the only European countries to promote central data processing.

Unequal access to this tool

Although the content seems to be great, the form raises some issues. If we compare the individuals at highest risk with the number of people who own a Smartphone among this population, it does not meet the requirements (98% in people between 18-24 years of age against 44% in people who are 70 years of age and older ). Besides, the use of this app will be voluntary. Therefore, assuming that each European has a Smartphone, he or she would need to download the app for public interest. Can we be optimistic about the efficiency of this app? Of course, it is essential to find a way to encourage people to use this app. But how? The governments still have plenty of work to do.

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