The government of France continues to insist on centralized COVID-19 contact tracing while Apple refuses to budge. France’s state-supported “StopCOVID” contact-tracing app should is expected to enter its testing phase in the week of May 11th, but this centralized approach is privacy concern and would require Apple to change way iPhones operate, compromising user’s privacy. Apple has so far refused to budge. In fact, Germany last week changed course from a centralized system to backing the decentralized n approach supported by Apple along with a growing number of other European countries.
Minister for Digital Affairs Cedric O, a member of President Emmanuel Macron’s inner circle, presented the app as a key element of France’s strategy to stave off the coronavirus as authorities grapple with the prospect of mass testing.
“There’s nothing magical about this app, but it’s not technological coquetry either,” O wrote on online publishing platform Medium. “It’s only useful if it’s integrated into a global health system.”
Debate has raged about whether to log such contacts on individual devices or on a central server – which would be more directly useful to existing contact tracing teams that work phones and knock on doors to warn those who may be at risk.
France has so far opted for a “centralised” approach, which would need Apple in particular to change the settings on its iPhones. The smartphone maker has refused to budge, although discussions with the U.S. company were ongoing, O said. “French health and technological sovereignty … is the freedom for our country to be able to have the choice and not be constrained by the choices of a large company, however innovative and efficient it may be,” O wrote.
MacDailyNews Take: It’s not happening, O. 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. And centralized or decentralized, the idea of digital contact tracing via smartphones isn’t going to work very well, if at all, anyway.
The whole thing is pie-in-the-sky piffle.
Even if you forwent the smartphones (1 in 5 people don’t even have a smartphone in the U.S., for example; 1 in 6 in the U.K.) and instead sent a dedicated contact-tracing bracelet to every single person in the country, you’d still be stuck with widespread non-compliance, inability to force compliance in many countries, non-charged / forgotten / lost bracelets, Bluetooth issues, false positives, etc., etc., etc.
Contact tracing / exposure notification apps are nothing more pablum for the masses. It’s simply a case of governments wanting to be able to tell citizens, “Want to feel safe while getting back to work, shopping, going out to eat, vacationing, etc.? There’s an app for that.”
“Don’t worry. Be happy. Download this app and go about your business.”
Might these apps help in some cases to get the relatively few people who will use them to seek testing or self-quarantine if/when the alarm goes off? Of course. But, overall, these apps are little more than security blankets for the citizenry to clutch on their way to herd immunity and, for governments that use a centralized system, to track the spread of infections on the way to herd immunity. — MacDailyNews, April 27, 2020
That said, Apple was smart to get out ahead on this digital COVID-19 contact tracing, and drag along perpetual-follower Google, before governments were able to really begin concocting draconian Orwellian schemes born of their own fevered nightmares.