Reboot en route for the failed coronavirus tracking app in France

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                La France va redémarrer son application de recherche de contacts StopCovid, qui s'est avérée un échec depuis sa mise en service il y a quatre mois, tandis que les infections à coronavirus à travers le pays continuent d'atteindre des niveaux records.
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                                    <p>Dans une interview accordée à France Info cette semaine, le Premier ministre Jean Castex a révélé que le gouvernement travaillait sur une «nouvelle version» de l'outil de suivi, qui sera déployée pendant les vacances scolaires le 22 octobre.

Mocked on social media, StopCovid has been downloaded 2.6 million times since June – a paltry figure compared to 18 million downloads for similar apps in Britain and Germany. And he only managed to identify a handful of potential contact cases.

Despite strong government pressure for the French to partner with StopCovid, the Prime Minister himself failed to download the app, which he mistakenly called TéléCovid – leading many to believe that it could be the name chosen by his successor.

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While StopCovid is purely voluntary, its use must be generalized if the technology is to play a significant role in slowing the epidemic in France, where the number of cases is reaching new records.

Digital Minister Cedric O admitted to the Senate last week that the state-run tracker “is malfunctioning.” The next version, he said, would require broad support and a vote of confidence from the medical profession to be successful.

O also indicated that the budget for the application would increase from € 100,000 to € 200,000 per month and that a call for tenders would be launched to find a project manager.

StopCovid works by using Bluetooth to interact with nearby phones and detect when users come in contact with potential carriers of the coronavirus. It generates an anonymous digital ID which is exchanged with other smartphones also running the app.

The identity of anyone who tests positive is marked with a red flag, and a warning is then sent to those who have passed each other within three feet of an infected person. However, the app does not reveal details of where and when the encounter was made – and geolocation data is not recorded.

Not just a tracking device

In addition to functioning as a contract tracing tool, it is understood that StopCovid 2.0 will function as a “hub”, bringing together the latest government information on infections, health measures and government advice.

However, it remains to be seen exactly how the new version will perform. Persistent questions – such as the difference between the new app and the original and whether the existing centralized data protocol, called Robert, will be kept – will have to wait until the app is deployed to the public.

Developed by government-sponsored research companies, StopCovid was criticized from the outset for its incompatibility with other European applications that use a “decentralized” approach, i.e. contacts are stored in the phone and not on a central server. This has added to fears that technology is giving authorities too much power to exploit personal data.

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