“The application (StopCovid) is still far from ready” announced Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Tuesday April 28, before the deputies. The debate should however revolve around digital tracing. And elsewhere, how is it going? Is there digital tracing? Are there already applications that work?
In Israel, the surveillance application has already been in place for over a month. The application is called “HaMagen” (the shield in French). It was developed in open source, that means that anyone on the Internet can see their program, can see from the inside how it works and, if necessary, suggest improvements. The application does not recover your geolocation data, on the contrary, it takes those of the patients which are stored anonymously on a server. She compares them and sends a message that says whether or not you have encountered a patient. If this is the case and on a voluntary basis, you can report yourself to the authorities, quarantine yourself at home and we will come and test you to see if you have the Covid.
In Spain, it is a bit the opposite and we are not ready to set up a national application for real surveillance. The country is extremely decentralized, seven regional apps all do the same thing: they inform you and they help you assess your symptoms. It doesn’t go any further. The objective was above all to unclog the emergency call centers and as health is part of the competences of the autonomous communities, they especially did not want to give up. The problem is that it is not possible to harmonize the results of the Basque Country with those of Andalusia, for example. The government still belatedly launched an official application. The regions are supposed to seize it, adapt it, but for the moment they are only 5 out of 17 to have played the game.
In the United Kingdom, the government is looking to develop its own application outside the giants Apple and Google and it smells a bit of the James Bond. It is the soldiers who test this application, on a base of the Royal Air Force, in the north of Yorkshire. Maximum security because, unlike the solutions imagined by Google and Apple, the system will allow the government to centralize information. It is therefore necessary to secure the database and it is one of the oldest British spies, director of cybersecurity, who oversees the operation. It remains to be seen whether the British will follow, while nearly 15% of the country’s phones do not have the Bluetooth function.
In Germany, there is also a debate on public freedoms, but a different arbitration. We prefer to explore an application with Apple and Google because we are less wary of the giants of the private sector than of a centralization of data by a central State. To fully understand this German position, it is necessary to recall the recent history of the country. His two dictatorships, a Nazi regime and then a regime, that of the GDR, which ended only thirty years ago, in East Germany. A police regime whose tool was called the Stasi to monitor the Germans. And that is still in everyone’s mind.
Almost everywhere in the West, StopCovid-type applications are being studied, but it’s a little bit in its own corner, because fears about freedoms are not of the same nature from one country to another.