France unveils project team for StopCovid app

Amid the battle of words over whether a decentralized or centralized approach is best for a COVID-19 contact-tracing app, France moved ahead with plans to launch a centralized app, while Germany appeared to switch sides over the weekend.

In France, the data protection watchdog CNIL broadly paved the way for a government-backed scheme to develop an app, called StopCovid. The watchdog based its assessment on the fact that the use of the app will be voluntary, although it warned that data would need to be "pseudonymized" and the app should form part of a global health strategy.

The French parliament has yet to debate the matter, but a StopCovid app project team has already been unveiled. According to a press release from Orange, it comprises Inria as coordinator as well as ANSSI, Capgemini, Dassault Systèmes, Inserm, Lunabee Studio, Orange, Santé Publique France and Withings. Its aim is to "provide the French health authorities with a complementary digital tool to help manage the sanitary emergency against Covid19."

Orange also said the project is being carried out in close cooperation with Germany, the UK, Italy, Spain and Norway, "based on comparable approaches and ensuring interoperability."

However, Germany already appears to have changed its mind, instead opting for a decentralized approach being promoted by Apple and Google – mainly, it seems, because its previous approach, based on the centralized standard called Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT), would have needed Apple to change the settings on iPhones.

Although France and the UK still appear to be backing a centralized approach, there are signs that an increasing number of countries are turning against this option because of "unprecedented surveillance of society at large," as it was put in an open letter published by hundreds of scientists last week. Reuters also noted that iPhones will integrate with the Decentralised Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (DP-3T) protocol that has been developed by a Swiss-led team and is backed by Switzerland, Austria and Estonia.




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