France asks Apple to disable iOS security feature for national contact tracing app

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2020
France is working to release a contact tracing app to monitor the spread of COVID-19, but Apple's built-in iOS security features currently prevent the software from functioning.


French Digital Minister Cedric O.


As the world scrambles to stamp out the COVID-19 threat, many countries are turning to digital solutions in efforts to track and mitigate fallout from the virus. France, one of the hardest hit both in terms of cases and deaths, is developing a contact tracing app to follow the spread of the disease, but Apple's strict privacy safeguards limit the software's utility on iOS devices.

On iOS, apps that transfer data over Bluetooth are prevented from running in the background. The limitation, designed to protect user data, severely impacts the operating capabilities of contact tracing apps, which typically need to run continuously in order to be effective.

With an aim to release its coronavirus tracking software by May 11, France has asked Apple to make an exception and "lift" the security protocol, reports Bloomberg.

"We're asking Apple to lift the technical hurdle to allow us to develop a sovereign European health solution that will be tied our health system," French Digital Minister Cedric O told the publication.

So far, however, ministers in talks with Apple have yet to see progress on the matter.

When reached for comment, Apple pointed Bloomberg to a previous statement regarding its own contact tracing system that is being developed in partnership with Google.

Announced earlier this month, the Apple-Google program is a cross-platform solution that automates the contact tracing process using short-range Bluetooth signals, secure local databases, anonymized device identifiers and other modern mobile technology. Like other methods in play, Apple and Google's contact tracing initiative seeks to track the spread of a disease by maintaining a history of who an infected person has come into contact with over set a period of time.

"All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world's most pressing problems," the companies said in a joint statement. "Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life."

Apple and Google further detailed the privacy aspects of the contact tracing project last week.

Using anonymized Bluetooth identifiers, which are stored locally, the contact tracing API tracks who a user came into close contact with on what is effectively a rolling 14-day basis. If a participant of the opt-in system later tests positive for the virus, they can elect to upload a list of recent contacts to a central server. User phones periodically download positive broadcast beacons and match data against the locally stored identifiers. If a match is found, an alert is displayed with links to critical healthcare information.

Apple and Google hope to issue a developer API in a "first stage," followed by operating system integration at a future date. The initial API will only be made available to public health organizations, presumably including those in France.

France's Parliament is scheduled to discuss its in-house contact tracing app's future on April 28.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 67
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,557member
    Give the French the backdoor and it’s all over. Contact tracing is just the camel’s nose under the tent.
    mrmacgeekentropyssteven n.SpamSandwichMisterKittoysandmeplanetary paulcaladanianGG1williamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 67
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,100member
    I hope Tim Cook give France a gigantic middle-finger.  
    mrmacgeekMisterKittoysandmeplanetary paulGG1williamlondonpscooter63watto_cobraolsbshank
  • Reply 3 of 67
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    Absolutely not. Apple should swiftly decline and tell the French to bugger off. These are the same people that were imposing ridiculous made up baloney fines on Apple left and right just a short time ago.

    Too many people and govts are starting to take advantage of the virus situation and many have began to show their true inner fascist colors. Give them an inch and they will take a mile next time.

    Principles and freedom and privacy and security are more important than anything, including some crappy virus.
    edited April 2020 toysandmeplanetary paulGG1watto_cobraolsbshank
  • Reply 4 of 67
    rcfarcfa Posts: 1,124member
    Apple should neither lift nor prevent this.
    whether an app has or hasn’t continuous access to BT should be a matter a user decides the same way user decide over location settings, access to  microphone an camera, etc.

    Apple is too restrictive, not towards app programmers, but in terms of giving users ultimate say over access to their data.
    baconstangwilliamlondonjony0
  • Reply 5 of 67
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 1,031member
    Apple and Google will likely have to come up with a solution.

    It's not as though we don't voluntarily give up anonymity as it is. The process must allow voluntary negotiations between people to share identities. 
    godofbiscuitsbaconstang
  • Reply 6 of 67
    steven n.steven n. Posts: 1,229member
    CV-19 is giving Governments the world over their wish list is the “name of public safety”. 
    georgie01toysandmechasmplanetary paulwattoukmattinozpscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 67
    entropysentropys Posts: 4,200member
    Power once given is hard to take back. Anyone who thinks the State will actually dismantle this technology once it is no longer needed, and not keep it and expand it for other purposes, is as dangerous as they are naive. What was voluntary becomes compulsory, what was done for good gets abused.

    edited April 2020 georgie01MisterKitGabytoysandmechasmplanetary paulGG1jony0
  • Reply 8 of 67
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,811member
    If France wants an app to do this, they should build it, not try to force Apple to be complacent in their spying.
    MisterKittoysandmeplanetary paulGG1williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 67
    georgie01georgie01 Posts: 436member
    entropys said:
    Power once given is hard to take back.
    This is so true. The general public is naive, thinking the rights they’re giving away right now will never be taken away again except for something super serious. On the contrary, because of this virus we are now at serious risk of more and more government leaders using this or that excuse to restrict citizens in the name of public safety.

    The governor of MI is already showing this in going way beyond sensible safety in her restrictions. And like a petty child she even threatened further restrictions in response to some people protesting.

    Our founders fought to the death for freedom, but now we’re itching to give up whatever we can out of fear over a virus which will hurt far less people than a crumbling economy and the loss of valuing freedom.
    redraider11GabymarklarktoysandmechasmfrantisekGG1beeble42watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 67
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    Aw, hell naw!
  • Reply 11 of 67
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,432member
    georgie01 said:
    entropys said:
    Power once given is hard to take back.
    This is so true. The general public is naive, thinking the rights they’re giving away right now will never be taken away again except for something super serious. On the contrary, because of this virus we are now at serious risk of more and more government leaders using this or that excuse to restrict citizens in the name of public safety.

    The governor of MI is already showing this in going way beyond sensible safety in her restrictions. And like a petty child she even threatened further restrictions in response to some people protesting.

    Our founders fought to the death for freedom, but now we’re itching to give up whatever we can out of fear over a virus which will hurt far less people than a crumbling economy and the loss of valuing freedom.
    Give me a fucking break. The mitigation measures in place are there to hopefully prevent hundreds of thousands (if not more) deaths. Nobody is losing their rights, they're trying to prevent a terrible situation from getting much worse. Your perceived "freedom" is not more important than others' right to live.
    roundaboutnowbaconstanggatorguypscooter63looplessGeorgeBMacavon b7
  • Reply 12 of 67
    THIS is why I will never opt in. Our information will most certainly be abused by bad actors and the government. Once you cede even a little bit of privacy, the government will just want more. 
    toysandmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 67
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    Your perceived "freedom" is not more important than others' right to live.
    I would actually disagree. Freedom is more important.
    toysandmeredraider11beeble42watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 67
    sergiozsergioz Posts: 338member
    They called it “technical hurdle” would you like new os written just for France? How about new power management algorithm just for national contact tracing app? Have you tried Android? I bet not even Android can lift “technical hurdle” for hypothetical national contact tracing app. Do French people what this national contact tracing app or is it French government fantasies about it? 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 67
    MisterKitMisterKit Posts: 503member
    I don’t see Apple buying into this.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 67
    JinTechJinTech Posts: 1,035member
    apple ][ said:
    Your perceived "freedom" is not more important than others' right to live.
    I would actually disagree. Freedom is more important.
    Can't be free if you're dead. I am not saying Apple should allow access.
    baconstangmacplusplusGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 17 of 67
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    JinTech said:
    Can't be free if you're dead. I am not saying Apple should allow access.
    Freedom is not free. There are costs associated with it.
    inTIMidatorwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 67
    FatmanFatman Posts: 513member
    We can see how this plays out:
    1. France demands that Apple change restrictions in iOS
    2. France government creates a half/ass tracking application with inadequate security & testing
    3. France requires all citizens to install it
    4. Users phones get hacked and/or stop functioning correctly
    5. France blames Apple
    6. France sues Apple
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 67
    Why can't they do this the old fashioned way - by having Users enable location tracking all the time for the app? Is it to do with accuracy?
    baconstangiOSDevSWEwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 67
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,432member
    echosonic said:
    "Your perceived "freedom" is not more important than others' right to live."

    Wrong.  Your assumption that my freedom is merely "perceived" is nothing but the sound of a cynical, negative, angry individual too scared to take control over his own life.
    Not that you care, but I was addressing specifically that particular poster's perception that freedom is somehow lost because we have public safety measures in place to save lives. I wasn't talking to you.
    baconstangtenthousandthingsgatorguypscooter63GeorgeBMac
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