France launches a “more interactive” StopCovid application

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A new “more interactive, dynamic and efficient” version of the Track and Trace StopCovid application should be released in France on October 22.Why and how will it be different from the first version? We explain.

First version less successful than hoped

The first version of the app was released on June 2. It was intended to monitor interactions between users via Bluetooth and send an anonymous alert if someone they had been in contact with – that is, within a meter of them for 15 minutes or so. more – was later diagnosed with Covid-19.

Overall, the app was not considered a success and has only been installed 2.6 million times in France. This is compared to peer apps used in the UK (16 million downloads) and Germany (18 million).

Junior Minister of Digital Affairs Cédric O said the app was not performing “well” in that it had not been widely received by the public due to a “lack of trust”.

Is the new app completely different?

No, but it has been described as a major update to the current version, and more “dynamic and interactive”.

He could change his name from the current StopCovid to AlerteCovid (and not “TéléCovid”, as Prime Minister Jean Castex mistakenly said last week). This has still not been confirmed with certainty, as “AlerteCovid” is also the name of the Canadian application, so this change could be confusing.

Technologically, there will be no change. The app will be downloaded, stored and updated in the same way as before – on your smartphone.

The time after which you will receive an alert could now be reduced from 15 to 5 minutes, this time remaining to be confirmed by Public Health France.

What about my data?

The new application will use the same data collection system as before – an anonymous centralized system created by INRIA, the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation. This contrasts with other versions, including those used in the UK and Germany, which use the decentralized protocol by the Apple and Google companies. France refused to use it.

Mr. O repeated this week that “StopCovid has taken measures to protect the data of its users, and does not use geolocation under any circumstances”.

All data collected by the app is anonymized, and even if an alert is sent to any of your contacts, it will not identify who has Covid, who was in contact with them, where or when.

How will the new app be used?

The app could be used in the future by the government to share information about Covid-19, the prime minister said, in order to make it more interactive and efficient.

Currently – except for an infection alert – once installed, it stays almost silent and out of sight, which means it can be easy to overlook.
But the government has ruled out sending “local alerts” – for example, if Covid-19 cases increase in a certain area.

In contrast, QR codes could soon be displayed at the entrances of bars, restaurants, shops and gyms, which the app can scan to become even more efficient at tracing cases. It would also eliminate the need for businesses to manually collect customer data, as they currently do.

This QR code system is used in countries including the United Kingdom. It collects the time, date and data of the visiting customer, so that the establishment can contact them in the future in the event of any propagation.

Do I need to use different apps when traveling?

Yes. Currently, apps in each country do not interact with each other or share data, so if you need to travel between countries, it is advisable to download the app specific to the country you are in.

Is the application compulsory?

No. It is recommended, but not required, even for businesses open to the public.

Mr O said: “The download will remain on a voluntary basis. “

Is there anything else we should know?

This will have virtually no impact on the user experience of the app, but the government opened up the app maintenance project to its competitors this week. Until now it was operated by CapGemini, free of charge.

The maintenance of the application would cost between 200,000 and 300,000 € per month, according to a source of information L’Obs in June.

And, this time, Prime Minister Castex said he intended to download the app and use it. He admitted that he had not downloaded the previous version.

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