“Cell Broadcast” SMS alerts, a more privacy-friendly method. (illustration photo). (MAXPPP)

Prime Minister’s promised StopCovid mobile app is scheduled to launch on June 3. But, critics multiply against this application. Baptiste Robert, recognized specialist in computer security, who presents himself as a “hacker hat white “ (non-criminal hacker, NDR), has joined forces with the founder of the Qwant search engine, Eric Léandri, to develop technical solutions that respect privacy. It advocates the use of SMS message delivery technology Cell broadcast instead of a mobile app against the Covid-19.

franceinfo: what do you criticize about the StopCovid application?

Baptiste Robert : This application will be based on Bluetooth technology which is not made to measure distances. This will be a rough estimate, with a margin of error of 3 meters. In addition, a mobile application is not able to know the quality of the contact you had with someone. If you were less than a meter away from a person’s weight, but the person was masked with gloves, it is absolutely not the same as if they did not have any equipment on them.

In addition, in terms of security, we will ask everyone to open their Bluetooth, which will open a new attack surface. However, we saw very recently that there was a critical security flaw on Bluetooth (on Android 8 and 9).

What other technical solution do you offer instead?

With Éric Léandri, the founder of Qwant, we assumed that there is a technology called Cell broadcast which has many qualities. It is a standardized technology, relatively old, which is already deployed around the world and which allows to warn by SMS all the people in an area who have a mobile phone on. It works on all mobiles, smartphones or simple phones.

It is notably this technology that is used in Japan to prevent earthquakes or in the United States for tornadoes and abduction alerts. We should already have used this system in France during the terrorist attacks of 2015, and we could use it for the Covid-19, to warn people if they are near a source of contamination.

“We are renewing the error of the SAIP application”

However, this technology does not allow people to trace their travel history, as the Stop Covid application should allow…

This idea of ​​tracing the history of contamination is a pipe dream. In France, we immediately posed the debate of contact tracing associated with a mobile application. However, today, the main feedback that we have on the mobile applications of contact tracing are rather very bad. I think we are redoing the error of the SAIP application (mobile alert application abandoned in 2018, NDR). Deploying a mobile app costs less and is a quick fix but one that is potentially ineffective.


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