The French government has asked Apple to remove some of the Bluetooth-related restrictions in iOS so that it can develop its contact-tracing app to fight coronavirus. The technical hurdle is delaying the launch of the app which the French government wants to release by May 11, the day on which all restrictions on the movement of people would begin lifting.
As per the French Digital Minister Cedric O, iOS does not allow apps to constantly use Bluetooth in the background if they want to move the data off the device. This was a limitation introduced by Apple to protect the privacy of its users. However, this limitation is coming in the way of the contact-tracing app that the French government wants to build.
“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,” O said in an interview with Bloomberg. Ministers have discussed their concerns with Apple, but aren’t making progress, he said.
Apple is already working with Google on a cross-platform API for contact-tracing apps which it hopes to release in May. A few months later, the companies will also add contact-tracing feature natively into their OS. The EU already plans to investigate the new APIs from Google and Apple to see if it meets the new standards set by it for COVID-19 apps. France and the EU want to store all data collected through contact tracing to a central server which would be managed by the state health services. This is unlike the solution from Google and Apple in which the data is kept on the users’ device itself.
So far, we have seen quite a few contact tracing apps from various government bodies across the world that work just fine despite the Bluetooth restriction in iOS 13 as they don’t move any data off the device.