PARIS (Reuters) - Le gouvernement français travaille sur une application pour smartphone qui pourrait avertir les utilisateurs s'ils entraient en contact avec un transporteur de coronavirus, ont déclaré mercredi les ministres, dans un geste susceptible de soulever des questions sur l'impact de la technologie de traçage sur les libertés civiles.
France, which has entered the fourth week of an imposed lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus epidemic, is exploring ways to end movement restriction, including contact tracing applications.
“In the fight against Covid-19, technology can help,” Deputy Minister of Technology Cedric O said to Le Monde. “Nothing will be decided without a broad debate.”
The minister said France is working on a project called “StopCovid” that could see the use of a Bluetooth-based proximity tracking application that users would install on their cell phones on a voluntary basis.
Its effectiveness would depend on people who voluntarily use the application to record the fact that they have tested positive. The app would then notify everyone who has been in close contact that they have been close to someone who has identified themselves as positive.
“The app would simply let you know that you have been in contact in the past few days with a person who tested positive,” said O, adding that a working group had been working on a prototype for several days, but that a date of launch was not known.
French law prohibits individual tracking of smartphones, unlike countries like China, Taiwan and South Korea, which use smartphone location records to trace contacts of people who test positive for a virus or to enforce prescriptions quarantine.
The issue sparked a debate even among the majority of President Emmanuel Macron in Parliament, several lawmakers in his party having warned that they would vote against any decision to use geolocation technology.
The French app would only use bluetooth and not geolocation, said Cedric O, and would not track user movements. The data would be anonymous and deleted after a certain period. Germany and Switzerland are working on similar applications, he added.
“We should not start thinking about suppressing a request,” said the minister. “Our scenario is that of a voluntary tool, which could be uninstalled at any time. No one will have access to the list of infected people and it will be impossible to know who infected whom. “
Two parliamentary sources, who questioned the CNIL behind closed doors in parliament, told Reuters that the authority was open to contact tracing technology as long as it was within a strict legal framework.
(Report by Michel Rose and Elizabeth Pineau, edited by Larry King)