France will start testing its COVID-19 tracking app the week of May 11th

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A books seller wearing a face mask looks at a customer's smartphone at a bookstore in Neuilly-sur-Seine, on April 28, 2020, on the 43rd day of a lockdown in France aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 disease, caused by the novel coronavirus. - Bookshops are among the hardest hit by the lockdown measures put in place since March 17. Until stores reopen on May 11, many establishments have already set up a "click & collect" service to provide customers with a book they have ordered. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)
FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

France was one of the first countries scrambling to create a COVID-19 contact tracing app, and now it’s close to finding out how its app works in practice. Digital Affairs Minister Cedric O has stated (via Reuters) that France’s StopCOVID should enter real-world testing the week of May 11th, right as the country will start easing pandemic lockdown measures. He didn’t say when the app might be ready for widespread use, although that’s likely to depend on initial results.

And before you ask: no, France isn’t budging on its desire to loosen Apple’s Bluetooth restrictions for the sake of the app. While O acknowledged that both France’s centralized approach (which stores identifiers for positive contacts in one place) had Apple’s decentralized method had flaws, he argued that the method supported by iOS was “crippling.” It allegedly had inferior data protections and gave up control, making it difficult for a health authority to learn from info without asking tech companies.

The minister was aware that trusting a central organization created the potential for abuse, but saw French control of health policy as a “sovereign prerogative” that shouldn’t be handed over to private companies. He also noted that France would move forward regardless of whether or not Apple changed its mind. The iPhone version is “satisfactory,” he said. Still, it’s clear the French government is hoping Apple will bend by the time StopCovid is widely available.

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