By Damon Mitchell • 28 May 2020 • 13:28
FRANCE is to welcome controversial contact tracing app StopCovid on a voluntary basis from June 1, after it was approved by the government.
StopCovid was approved by 338 votes to 215, with 21 abstentions votes in the Assemblée Nationale and the Senate yesterday (Wednesday). In the Senate, 186 voted in favour, 127 against, and 29 abstained.
The French government intends to launch the app on Monday, June 1, the day before the second stage of deconfinement begins.
Despite criticisms that the app will invade personal freedom and privacy, ministers in favour of its use have looked to “guarantee” its safety.
StopCovid is voluntary and anonymous. It will be available to download on Apple and Android phones from your normal app store.
After installing it to your phone, you are not required to input any personal details. It asks you to turn on Bluetooth and accept notifications.
Then, when it registers that users have been within one metre of each other for at least 15 minutes, it will keep a note of this.
If one of the users is then diagnosed with Covid, they will be given a QR code by the testing lab, which they can take a photo of, and let the app know they have been diagnosed. Anyone who has been in contact with them will receive an alert to their app. They will be asked to take precautions and arrange to be tested if necessary.
Critics have said that the app will infringe personal liberty and the right to privacy.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, head of the France Insoumise party, has called it “ineffective” and a “freedom killer.”
Damien Abad MP condemned the app as “arriving too late,” and “a step too far.”
Amnesty International, and French human rights group la Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH), have criticised the app and said it could lead people to stop taking other barrier precautions due to a false sense of security.
Critics have pointed out that the app’s requirement for users to leave Bluetooth turned on is another tech failing, as Bluetooth does not work “in the background” of your phone, and will drain the batteries quickly.
App supporter Bruno Retailleau MP said that he wanted to “give a French app a chance,” in the “name of digital sovereignty” to fight the dominance of “the American GAFA [Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon] sirens.”
The app is French-made, as the government decided not to enlist the help of Google and Apple and instead tasked French digital research institute INRIA to create the technology.
It also received the “green light” from digital agency La Commission Nationale Informatique et Libertés (CNIL), who said that the app respected current laws on rights to privacy. Yet, it said that the app should be subject to regular evaluation and reports.
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