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France Says Bluetooth Limitations in iOS Delaying Development of its COVID-19 Contract Tracing App

France Says Bluetooth Limitations in iOS Delaying Development of its COVID-19 Contract Tracing App

The French government claims a technical obstacle in iOS is preventing its COVID-19 contract-tracing app from working properly. France is calling on Apple to reduce the limitations on Bluetooth activity running in the background.

Bloomberg reports that France is targeting May 11 as the app’s release date, and is asking Apple to “lift the technical hurdle” that it says is in the way.

Apple prevents contract-tracing apps from using Bluetooth in the background if the collected data is to be moved off the device. This is designed to protect the user’s privacy, but France wants Apple to change this policy.

“We’re asking Apple to lift the technical hurdle to allow us to develop a sovereign European health solution that will be tied to our health system,” Digital Minister Cedric O  told Bloomberg. Ministers have discussed their concerns with Apple, but aren’t making progress, he said.

When asked for comment, Apple pointed to its original joint statement with Google, where it announced that new APIs will be available in May to enable contact-tracking in third-party apps. We reported the following at that time:

Apple and Google will in May release APIs that provide interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These apps will be available for download from the iOS App Store and Google Play.

The French government appears to be working on its own solutions and is pressing Apple to lift the privacy protections currently in place in iOS. While French officials declined to go into details about how their solution would work, the government says app downloads will be voluntary when the app becomes available in May.

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