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More than 1 million use French StopCovid app

One million people in France have downloaded and activated the smartphone app StopCovid, designed to help track and trace Covid-19 infections in France, which became available on June 2.

Junior digital affairs minister Cédric O announced on June 6 that one million people in France had downloaded the app.

The government claims that the StopCovid will help combat the spread of Covid-19 in France “as soon as the first downloads happen”. Yet, the effectiveness of the app depends on how many people decide to use it. 

A study by Oxford University has estimated that between 40-60% of the population would need to use the app to make it effective. This would mean at least 26 million users in France.

Mr O said of the recent figures: "One million is a good start. We need to go further, but it’s a good start."

The figure released over the weekend does not include the number of people in France who have downloaded the app but not yet activated it. 

How StopCovid works

The app uses Bluetooth to alert users if they have spent 15 minutes within one metre of someone infected with Covid-19. For this to work, both parties must have the app and Bluetooth activated on their smartphones when they are in proximity to each other. 

If an infected person using StopCovid tests positive for Covid-19 they are given a QR code to scan into the app. The app then alerts users who may be at risk of having contracted Covid-19 from the infected person without revealing their identity.

Read more: Controversial StopCovid app now available in France

Read more: France StopCovid app: How it works and how to get it

Criticism for the app

The app has faced criticism throughout its conception - including from tech experts, legal practitioners and French politicians, who have stated concerns that it would infringe users' privacy.

But the government claims the app is sufficiently secure to withstand security concerns, and provides users with a high level of anonymity. For example, users of the app can use regularly changing pseudonyms, rather than their real names. Similarly, the app does not reveal people's identity to others. 

Using the app is also not obligatory in France, although the government advises that people do so.


Too early to say if the app is working

In an interview last week, Mr O said the efficacy of the app would not be clear for some time.

He said: “it’s still too early to judge how effective this is as a health measure, for two reasons. Firstly, because the application is only three days old, and the number of people you might meet for more than 15 minutes, within less than one metre in three days, is still very limited.

"And then, because the number of people who have tested positive in the past three days is quite low."

He added: "If the app turns out to be unnecessary because the epidemic is finished, we will be very happy.”

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