France releases contact-tracing app StopCovid. It is only available on the Apple and Google Play Stores. Now the true test begins on whether or not its citizens will use it. If recent contact-tracing app success from other countries is any indication, our guess is no.
France has decided (rightly so) to not rely on Apple and Google’s contact tracing API. Rather, private companies have worked on a centralized architecture. The server assigns you a permanent ID (a pseudonym) and sends to your phone a list of ephemeral IDs derived from that permanent ID. Although we applaud France for not buying into the Apple-Google contact-tracing hype, the StopCovid contact-tracing app will still rely on Bluetooth to build a comprehensive list of other app users that a person has interacted with for more than a few minutes. If you’re using the app, it collects the IDs of other app users when a person is in close proximity. So, what may have seemed like a promising approach, France, we predict, will become the latest victim of little to no adoption or users of their contact tracing app.
The one aspect of the app that is better than most is that, if you’re using StopCovid and you’re diagnosed COVID-19-positive, your doctor, hospital or testing facility will provide you a QR code and you can choose to open the app and enter that code to share the list of ephemeral IDs of people you’ve interacted with over the past two weeks. It’s not the sharing with others that you have been close to that is promising, it’s the use of QR codes and integration with testing facility. This is an approach that we believe strongly in at CLEARed.
France’s contact-tracing protocol ROBERT has raised privacy concerns as hundreds of French academics signed a letter asking for safeguards. Particularly, they said it was unclear whether a contact tracing app would even be useful when it comes to fighting the coronavirus outbreak. Last week, the French parliament voted in favor releasing the contact-tracing app. But it was heavily debated with many concerns related to security, privacy, data collection and 24 monitoring of its citizens.
The test now is to see how people react to the release of the app and if they actually download it. The government said there won’t be any negative consequence if you’re not using StopCovid, nor any privilege if you are using it. We suspect the overall usage will be like many other apps that use Bluetooth and GPS, 1-5% usage (well below the 60% adoption rates needed).