In a U-turn, the French government has decided after all to allow lawmakers to vote on its plan to launch a COVID-19 contact tracing app, lawmakers and the prime minister’s office said on Tuesday.
The government’s U-turn came after mounting criticism from members of parliament, including MPs from President Emmanuel Macron’s party. It initially planned to hold a debate on April 28-29 without a vote. “Thanks to the government for finally changing its mind, it’s a good decision for democracy,” lawmaker Matthieu Orphelin tweeted…
Separately, a government official said Apple was refusing to change the privacy settings of its phones to make them compatible with the French government’s app, confirming an earlier report by newspaper Les Echos.
In a hearing behind closed doors on Monday, digital affairs minister Cedric O told members of the Senate that Apple was so far resisting French demands to make the future app detectable via bluetooth even when its not active.
The minister told the Senate that if Apple lifted its technical barriers to the development of the application, he was hopeful it could be launched on May 11, Cedric O’s office told Reuters on Tuesday.
MacDailyNews Take: Keep dreaming.
Two competing app projects have emerged in recent weeks. A German-led initiative, called Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT), is backed by the French government.
The other is a decentralised contact tracing protocol called DP-3T, pioneered by Swiss researchers, that is aligned with a technology alliance between Apple and Google.
MacDailyNews Take: When they feel compelled to put “privacy-preserving” in the name, question everything.
Again, Apple limits Bluetooth in this way in order to protect users’ privacy. We expect the company to continue handling Bluetooth this way in the face of overreaching governments, including France’s proposed contact-tracing scheme.
Regardless, no matter how well-designed the Apple-Google system is on paper, in practice too few people will install and use it, while reliance on Bluetooth connectivity (range, materials penetrance, public transport, etc.) will result in myriad false positive issues. This seems like something designed to provide a digital security blanket to help increase confidence for going back to work more than anything else. More about the myriad issues of Bluetooth COVID-19 contact tracing apps can be found in our Takes here and here.