Don't call it StopCovid anymore. France's contact tracking app has been updated and is now called TousAntiCovid, which means "everyone against Covid". The French government is trying to twist so that it is no longer a contact tracking app – or at least not just a contact tracking app.
Right now, TousAntiCovid seems like more of a rebranding than a pivot. There is a new name and some changes in the user interface. However, the core feature of the app remains unchanged.
StopCovid wasn't a success. First, it's still unclear whether contact tracking apps are a useful tool for alerting people who have interacted with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. Second, even if you take this into account, the app never actually launched.
In June the French government gave us an update on StopCovid three weeks after the launch. 1.9 million people had downloaded the app, but StopCovid only sent 14 notifications.
Four months later, StopCovid / TousAntiCovid was downloaded and activated by nearly 2.8 million people. But only 13,651 people declared themselves COVID-19 positive in the app, which resulted in 823 notifications. In most cases, even if you test positive, no one will be notified.
Hence today's update. If you have used the app, you will receive TousAntiCovid with a software update. The French government uses the same App Store and Play Store list. When you first launch the app, you'll go through an onboarding process that focuses on contact tracking – turning on notifications, turning on bluetooth, etc.
France uses its own contact tracing protocol called ROBERT. A group of researchers and private companies have worked on a centralized architecture. The server assigns you a permanent ID (a pseudonym) and sends a list of short-lived IDs derived from that permanent ID to your phone.
Like most contact tracking apps, TousAntiCovid uses Bluetooth Low Energy to create a comprehensive list of other app users that you've interacted with for more than a few minutes. When you use the app, the ephemeral IDs of other app users in your environment are recorded.
If you use the app and are diagnosed with COVID-19, you will receive a QR code or a series of letters and numbers from your test facility. You can open the app and enter this code to share the list of ephemeral IDs of the people you've interacted with in the past two weeks.
The server backend then marks all of these short-lived IDs as belonging to people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. Each user is assigned a new risk assessment on the server. When a certain threshold is exceeded, the user receives a notification. The app will then advise you to get tested and follow the official instructions.
But there are some new things in the app. You can now access some up-to-date figures on the pandemic in France – new cases in the last 24 hours, number of people in intensive care, etc. There is a new feed of news. For now, it sums up what you can and can't do in France
And there are some new links to useful resources – the service that tells you where to get tested and a link to the exemption certificate during curfew. Tapping these links will simply launch your web browser to official websites.
Let's see how the app performs as the government now wants to actively go through TousAntiCovid to make it more attractive. If TousAntiCovid can become a central information center for your phone, it can lead to more downloads.