France says Apple’s Bluetooth strategy blocks virus tracker

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(Bloomberg) – France is asking Apple Inc. to remove a technical barrier that it says is delaying a government contact tracing application designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Apple’s operating system prevents contact tracing applications using its Bluetooth technology from running constantly in the background if this data is to be moved from the device, a limit designed to protect user privacy. This limitation hinders the type of application that France wants to build, said Minister of Digital Cédric O.

The government aims to roll out its application by May 11, when France wants to start lifting traffic restrictions imposed in mid-March. Contact tracking applications are a tool that health services can use to more accurately determine who infected people have come into contact with, and which governments can deploy to help make decisions about how quickly reopen cases. schools and businesses.

“We are asking Apple to remove the technical barrier to allow us to develop a sovereign European healthcare solution that will be linked to our healthcare system,” O said in an interview with Bloomberg. The ministers have discussed their concerns with Apple, but are not progressing, he said.

An Apple spokesperson made reference to the company’s previous joint statement regarding its partnership with Google, which said the technology would allow Bluetooth-based contact search applications and declined to comment further.

Apple and Alphabet Inc. Google are developing their own technology to help create contact search applications. Their platform should be made available to governments and public health authorities everywhere next month, according to an official in the French minister’s office. However, the French are betting on a homemade solution.

The Google-Apple system relies on the Bluetooth connections of smartphones and will allow users to store their data on their handsets. However, France and the European Union wish to transmit the data to a central server, managed by the public health services, which would alert users in the event of contact with a person infected with Covid-19.

The European Union said last week that it will review the technology of the Silicon Valley giants to make sure it meets new block standards for the deployment of Covid-19 applications.

Learn more: Google and Apple Covid-19 Tracking Tech face EU review

Mobile apps should be voluntary, approved by national health authorities, preserve the privacy of users and dismantled as soon as they are no longer needed, the EU said in its new guidelines, which are part of a more wide coordination of exit strategies between Member States when they slowly lift existing foreclosure measures.

Apple and Google have defended the confidentiality of their system, claiming that the names and locations of users will not be shared or stored.

The French Parliament will discuss the application, which was developed by Inria, the government body responsible for technological research, on April 28. MPs will not have the right to decide whether or not to modify its implementation. Users will download it on a voluntary basis, but no further details have been made public.

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