Grandstand. Like its Singaporean cousin TraceTogether, the French StopCovid application would be introduced on a voluntary basis. It’s a gamble: the Asian application was only downloaded by 10% of the population, whereas, according to the European network eHealth, it would take an adoption rate higher than 60% for StopCovid to be effective.
Does it make sense to launch a voluntary app knowing that it will likely be ineffective? The European Commission, like the President of the Republic, is counting on the trust and the solidarity of the citizens so that the device is massively adopted, two elements which seem to have been lacking in Singapore. The trust of citizens will only be acquired if certain technical, operational and legal conditions are met and clearly presented to citizens. What are these conditions?
First, the confidence of citizens will depend on the purpose of the application. According to the National Research Institute for Digital Science and Technology (Inria), StopCovid will only serve to anonymously warn people who have had recent contact with a person tested positive. It will also allow Public Health France to study the progression of the epidemic using anonymized data (although one wonders how Public Health France will be able to study the progression of the epidemic without geographic data). Unlike its Polish equivalent, StopCovid will not be used to verify compliance with containment; Unlike the Israeli and South Korean approaches, StopCovid will not allow tracking of past movements. But the exact purpose of the application needs to be confirmed.
Second, the confidence of citizens will depend on precise legal framework. The system should be subject to the control of an independent commission, which will ensure its efficiency, security and respect for individual rights. The Israeli Supreme Court demanded that the data collection system put in place to combat the Covid-19 be monitored by a parliamentary committee. Such institutional safeguards seem as frequent as necessary. We can notably cite the case of data collection by French intelligence agencies. While in Israel, certain data are collected by the Shin Bet, the internal security service – which creates a risk of communicating vessels dangerous for individual freedoms – we recommend that the system in France be placed under the responsibility of Public Health France, which already manages data collection for reportable diseases (Zika, yellow fever, HIV, etc.). The French share very large amounts of medical data with the state, notably through the health insurance system. The confidence of citizens is based on the institutional and technical protection of this sensitive data and the respect of medical confidentiality by all health actors in France. StopCovid should be part of this trusted ecosystem.
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