France accuses Apple of refusing aid with “StopCovid” application

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PARIS: France accused Apple of Tuesday of undermining its efforts to fight the coronavirus by refusing to help make its iPhones more compatible with a contact search application “StopCovid”.
Countries are rushing to develop smartphone apps, which are seen as a way to control the new coronavirus epidemic while reopening the economy.

The apps would use the Bluetooth feature, which allows phones to interact with nearby devices to help detect times when users come in contact with people potentially carrying the virus.

Apple iPhones normally block access to Bluetooth unless the user is actively running an application. French officials want Apple to change the settings to allow their app to access Bluetooth in the background, so it’s still on. So far, they say, Apple has refused.

“Apple could have helped us make the app even better on the iPhone. They did not wish to do so, “French Minister for Digital Cedric O told BFM Business TV.

“I regret it, given that we are in a period when everyone is mobilized to fight the epidemic, and given that a large company that is doing so economically well is not helping a government in this crisis” .

“We will remember that when the time comes,” added the minister.

An Apple spokesperson in France declined to comment.

The issue of Bluetooth access on iPhones is one of many security-related questions that arise when countries try to deploy smartphone apps to fight coronavirus.

France, as well as other countries, wants to keep the contact data in a central database, arguing that this would facilitate the follow-up of suspected cases of coronavirus by the authorities.

Apple and Google, Alphabet, responsible for the operating system of almost all smartphones, want the data to be stored on the phones themselves, out of the government’s reach, saying it would better protect user privacy.

O, the French minister, said he could not explain the reasoning behind Apple’s decision on Bluetooth.

“We believe that surveillance of the healthcare system, the fight against the coronavirus, belongs to governments and not necessarily to large American companies,” he said.

The French minister said that the application should be ready to be deployed on June 2, regardless of Apple’s position, and would enter a test phase in the week of May 11, when the country begins to untie its lock .

In France, Apple’s mobile operating system accounted for 21.1% of the market in the first quarter, while Google’s Android represented 78.8%, according to a study by Kantar.

Britain, which uses the same centralized approach as France to store data, will begin testing its own COVID-19 tracking application on the Isle of Wight from Tuesday.



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