Orange wants to enter the already crowded scene of “contact tracking” mobile applications intended to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Stéphane Richard, CEO of the French telephone operator, announced on Friday April 17 on France Inter that his teams had designed “A working application prototype”.
On April 8, the government announced in the columns of the World, to have started thinking about “StopCovid”, an application capable of identifying, from the mobile phones of the patients of the Covid-19, people they have known and that they could have infected.
Then ” Several weeks “, it is explained at Orange, that “in-house” experts have undertaken a similar project. This prototype, which Orange said he presented to the authorities a few days ago, is the spitting image of the government project.
Based on Bluetooth and not using any geolocation data, not even those available to Orange as a telephone operator, this application registers the presence of other applications present on phones located at a sufficiently short distance to risk transmission. from Covid-19. The identifiers, not named, of these devices are stored for fourteen days. If a patient is diagnosed positive, the identifier of his application is stored in a base in which the other applications can check, by computer and at regular intervals, if an identifier of their contact history is there. If this is the case, an alert appears, containing instructions from the health authorities.
Several manufacturers involved
Orange prides itself on having worked with several other manufacturers, notably Dassault Systèmes and Cap Gemini. According to Le Figaro, Sopra Steria also contributed to the project. The emergence of large groups and manufacturers in the landscape of this type of application to the heavy challenges of public freedoms will not facilitate the task of the government, which must already respond to the fears aroused by its project in terms of respect of privacy.
Stéphane Richard has in any case brushed aside these concerns, calling them “Fantasies” and ensuring that the prototype presented to the French authorities presented “Substantial guarantees”. In the prototype developed by Orange, the data would not be kept and users would have a “Right to erasure planned from the start”, according to Mr. Richard.
At Orange, we assure that this prototype is not a way of putting an industrial foot in the door of a device whose keys have been entrusted by the government to a scientific body, the National Institute for Research in Computer Science and automatic (Inria). With the historic operator, we defend ourselves from wanting to force the hand of the government and we assure that the company will submit to its choices in the matter.
“We are not going to launch the application alone, it must be supported by the authorities and health experts”, says a spokesperson for the company, who explains that the company stands “Available to Inria to continue working on this project” in order to take advantage “Orange's skills in the development and industrialization of these applications” as well as ” the contact “ with end users. At this stage, Orange has not been integrated into the team led by Inria.
The government, which is awaiting the advice of scientists before making a decision on whether or not to launch its application, hopes to have all options on the table by May 11, a date that could mark the start of deconfinement. This application could indeed play a role in limiting the resurgence of the epidemic. In any case, it will not be ready when the deputies and senators debate it, on April 28 and 29.