France looks past Google, Apple for virus contact tracing

Published May 20, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Agence France-Presse

France, which has long been sceptical of the growing power of US tech titans, is seeking to bypass Apple and Google for a smartphone app to help trace people infected with the novel coronavirus.

Singapore has deployed a contact tracing app called TraceTogether since March (AFP/File / Catherine LAI / MANILA BULLETIN)
Singapore has deployed a contact tracing app called TraceTogether since March (AFP/File / Catherine LAI / MANILA BULLETIN)

The move, which leaves France relatively isolated in Europe alongside Britain and Norway, reflects differences on how such apps should be structured, who has access to sensitive data and their effectiveness.

A number of countries have already deployed “contact tracing” apps on smartphones that track a person’s contacts and alert them if need be, generating vital information to help contain outbreaks and slow the spread of the virus as nations ease lockdowns and get back to work.

These apps can be based either on a decentralised or centralised architecture.

A decentralised architecture keeps the information about whom a person has been in contact with on the smartphone.

If the person declares themselves to have been infected by the coronavirus, then those people deemed to have been in close contact for an extended period receive a notification to isolate themselves and get tested.

In a centralised system the data is managed by an authority, say a national health service, that would have access to the data to ensure those who are exposed are indeed following the proper health and isolation recommendations.

Apple and Google banded together last month to develop coronavirus contact tracing technology that would work across their operating systems.

The technology, set to be released later this month, embraces a decentralised architecture that would enable smartphone users to control their own data, and choose whether to notify the authorities if they have been exposed.

 
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