France has asked Apple to allow any app to access Bluetooth on our devices at any time in order to launch its app against the coronavirus. According to the Minister for the Digital Economy, Cedric O, France wants to launch the app on 11 May.
Before we get down to business, a couple of points need to be clarified. With the API that Apple and Google are developing, it will be the system that will manage the contacts between the devices (and their users). The system will take care of the access to the bluetooth, the key exchange, the comparison of the positive contacts, etc. In this sense, this API will work as an independent and totally opaque system for any application (and the same operating system), so that the apps will have a secondary role.
The importance of apps is that they are the way in which we, as users, can ask the system to activate contact tracking and subscribe to alerts of positive contacts. In addition, the app will provide relevant information such as news about the development of the outbreak or health care points.
This API will arrive this coming May , probably in time for the launch of the French-developed app which is planned to be launched on May 11th. So what is the French government asking for? The minister for the digital economy, Cederic O, has expressed himself in this way:
From this we can deduce that the app that France has developed wants to replace the API proposed by Apple and Google and have access to Bluetooth data autonomously. This access, which is not allowed in Apple’s operating systems, would allow the app to implement its own tracking system and collect a significant amount of data which would then be sent to a central server.
Any system that allows data to be sent to a central server is inherently less secure than the solution proposed by Apple and Google, since it can allow individual identification of users. More than 300 academics in a dozen countries signed a letter on Monday supporting Apple’s and Google’s proposed API. A system where we don’t have to give up our privacy and security to get the benefits of a contact notification system.
At AppleApple you can answer questions about the privacy of your app-web about COVID-19 and provide details of the Contact Notification API
For now, we will wait for events to unfold, but one thing is clear: ceding freedoms and rights for a supposed security seems a risky bet. Above all with viable and developing alternatives to offer both.