At a glance.
- COVID-19 exposure notification tracing in France.
- COVID-19 contact tracing in the UK.
COVID-19 exposure notification tracing in France.
The National Assembly and the Senate yesterday approved StopCovid, the exposure notification app developed for voluntary deployment to French users' smartphones. The Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés (CNIL), the national privacy watchdog agency, had approved the app on Tuesday, according to SecureWeek. Euro News says that the contentious debate that surrounded the vote focused on privacy concerns, and on getting assurances that StopCovid would be independent of Apple and Google, so Big Tech wouldn't become Big Brother.
Le Grand Frère or not, the app could be available for installation as soon as this coming Monday, Connexion reports. Designed for both iPhones and Android devices, users would voluntarily install the app, turn on Bluetooth, and accept notifications. The app will note any one-meter (or less) approach to other users' devices that lasts fifteen minutes (or more). Any user who's subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19 would receive a QR code from their testing lab which they would (again, presumably voluntarily) image with their device so the app would know they'd tested positive for the virus. At that point other users who'd been within a meter of the infected person's phone for a quarter of an hour would be pinged with an invitation "to take precautions and be tested themselves if necessary." Presumably this would involve some interaction with a centralized database, but the government has given assurances that the app won't identify infected persons, and that its data will all be encrypted and anonymous.
There are of course the foreseeable objections on grounds of privacy: “I do not want someone to know, or even to be able to know, who I have spent 15 minutes with, within one metre. It’s none of your business,” Connexion quotes Jean-Luc Mélenchon, head of the France Insoumise party.
COVID-19 contact tracing in the UK.
Computing looked at the text of the British National Health Service's Test and Trace website, and they find (in addition to signs of hasty construction, including the use of Americanisms like "personal identifying information" (sic) which have no real legal import in the British system) a lack of reassurance with respect to privacy protection. The site reads in part, "If you have had a positive test for COVID-19, we will ask for information about your illness, recent activities you did and people you met whilst you were potentially infectious. If you are a contact of a person who tested positive, we will ask about your health and provide health advice to keep yourself and others safe." Users can ask the government to delete their data, but they have no absolute right to such deletion, and the government plans to hold their information for twenty years.