French smartphone app to help track virus transmission

StopCovid aims to help limit spread of coronavirus by tracking paths of infection, says official

Anadolu Agency April 09, 2020
A mobile phone with HaMagen application on it is seen in this picture illustration taken on April 1, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS: As the coronavirus outbreak continues to take its toll on the French population, the government announced that it is planning to launch a digital smartphone application to fight the pandemic.

The StopCovid project aims to help limit the spread of the disease by following its chains of transmission and paths of infection, according to Secretary of State for Digital Affairs Cedric O in an interview on France Inter Thursday morning, adding that the app is still being developed and will take several weeks to be completed.

Cedric O also said that options are being developed for the approximately 13 million (about 20%) citizens without a device.

"We know that there is a digital divide in France. We are thinking about either deploying more smartphones or helping people acquire them," he noted.

Downloading the application is voluntary, and it can be uninstalled at any time, "and it will not last beyond the crisis," he said.

It works when two people meet at a close range, as the mobile phone of one records the references of the other in its history, and if an exchange with a positive carrier has occurred, the application will inform you of it.

The project, a joint work of France, Germany, and Switzerland, is headed by the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation. The application uses Bluetooth technology at its core, with transmissions made via short-term frequency between users' phones.

It will only retrace one's movements over previous days, but does not track movements, and no geographically identifying data is included in the process.

Responding to a question of whether the French are open to this kind of slight infringement on individual liberty, Cedric O. said: "It is French tradition that there is an extremely strong vigilance on the question of personal data and public freedoms. My role is to ensure that there is no change in the framework of respect for private life."

Since appearing in China last December, the virus has spread to at least 184 countries and regions, according to figures compiled by the US-based Johns Hopkins University.

France currently has over 83,000 coronavirus cases, with the death toll over 10,800, and more than 21,400 recoveries.

Nearly 1.5 million cases have been reported worldwide, with over 89,700 deaths, and more than 337,000 recoveries.

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