TousAntiCovid (AntiCovid) is the Covid 19 contact tracing application to alert the French when they have encountered patients and to stem the spread of the epidemic. Operation, interest, new additions, question of personal data and the impact on the battery, we come back to all these points in this file.
On October 22, 2020, the government launched the TousAntiCovid application. It is in fact a reworked version of StopCovid, which failed to convince the French public and which has been brought up to date. TousAntiCovid (renamed on some smartphones after installation in a more sober AntiCovid) already seems more popular than its predecessor with almost 12 million downloads. Let’s go over everything you need to know about this service.
What is TousAntiCovid (AntiCovid) used for and how does it work?
The principle of TousAntiCovid remains unchanged in relation to the objectives of StopCovid: it is a tracking app whose primary purpose is warn the user if he has been in contact with an individual who tested positive for Covid-19. This works with Bluetooth, which must always remain activated on the smartphone. The platform can then determine with which other smartphones on which TousAntiCovid is installed your own mobile has been close and therefore know who crossed with whom. The application takes into account contacts within a meter for at least 15 minutes so as not to bombard users with false alerts.
When a person tests positive for the novel coronavirus, then it can declare itself as infected on the application, which will then warn individuals who have been in contact with them for a prolonged period during the period of contagiousness (which begins from the 48 hours preceding the date of onset of symptoms or seven days before his positive test if the person is asymptomatic). The informed user can then self-confine as a precaution and take a test to find out if he has contracted the virus.
This mode of operation implies a strong adoption of AntiCovid (TousAntiCovid) for the approach to be truly effective. Currently, thetarget of 20 million active users is not yet reached. For comparison, Corona-Warn-App, the German counterpart of TousAntiCovid, was downloaded by around 22% of the population. Ireland is also one of the good performers with a rate of 26%. All is not dark, however, because the government claims 12 million subscribers and is doing everything to make this application even more useful.
Whether it is to consult the latest figures on the pandemic, or generate pre-filled certificates in the event of containment or curfew.
How to download TousAntiCovid on Android and iOS?
TousAntiCovid is of course a free application. It is available on the Play Store for Android smartphones and on the App Store for iPhone owners. For users who had already installed StopCovid on their mobile, they just need to update the app to get TousAntiCovid, which is an important update from its predecessor, but not a brand new app that is starting from scratch.
The functionality is in theory the same on Android and iOS, but in fact, the application works less well on iOS. Indeed, the development teams have made the decision to dispense with Google and Apple protocols for the sake of independence from the two giants. And if tracing remains possible on Android without the tools provided by Google, it is on the other hand much less efficient on iOS, much more closed.
TousAntiCovid does not have all access to the Bluetooth BLE chip that equips the iPhone. Moreover, it is difficult to understand why the government is reinventing lukewarm water: Apple and Google provide a turnkey solution for their smartphones, available to the services concerned, to integrate a contact tracing system that really works. Finally, let us note that unlike a majority of countries, the French application is strictly incompatible with the contact tracing systems of our neighbors.
We can bet, however, that these difficulties will gradually be resolved. To participate in contact tracing:
What’s new in AntiCovid (TousAntiCovid) compared to StopCovid
The effectiveness of StopCovid was disappointing in particular because of the small number of devices on which it was installed. To make it more attractive and pretend to revive the interest of French people around the app, several features have been added to TousAntiCovid. First, it now becomes possible to deactivate the application manually. When you are at home, you no longer need it a priori and you avoid it turning in the background for nothing.
Then, it takes on a new information role. From the home screen, a highlighted menu provides access to the “key figures” of the epidemic, updated daily. The number of new cases identified in France is for example presented. Data refined at the level of cities and departments should appear soon.
Other information such as the number of TousAntiCovid users or the volume of notifications sent to potential contact cases are part of the range of the application which also includes the number of people vaccinated. TousAntiCovid also refers to two other services set up by the government:
- Covid screening: A map that indicates the nearest screening centers thanks to geolocation. It also exploits the collaborative aspect by indicating an estimate of waiting times based on user feedback. Useful for choosing the screening center that is both close and will not make you wait too long. Covid screening works throughout France, except Guyana.
- My Covid Tips: A questionnaire to find out what to do in the event of symptoms of Covid-19, for yourself or for a loved one, depending on the family, professional and state of health situation.
Finally, a pre-filled form allows you to generate any certificate for the curfew or a possible re-containment. At the end of January 2021, a new feature will be added: QR Code scanning in busy places. One way to prepare for the reopening of bars and restaurants to quickly identify outbreaks of infection.
With TousAntiCovid, France cut off from Europe
The European Commission has launched an initiative to create a European network bringing together data from each national application. The applications of Germany, Italy and Ireland are already thus linked, while waiting for other countries to join the movement, starting with the Czech Republic, Denmark, Latvia and Spain. France will never be part of it. As explained earlier, TousAntiCovid does not rely on the protocols of Google and Apple, while it is the case with our neighbors.
Within the European Union, only Hungary is in a similar situation. The French app cannot therefore be connected to others and be integrated into this large infrastructure which is in the process of being set up. This lack of interoperability forces French users in particular to install and activate AntiCovid, but also its equivalent in the country where they are going. Cross-border workers are particularly concerned.
AntiCovid and respect for privacy
France’s isolation is explained by its desire to guarantee its citizens the security of their personal data. This is the main argument for a solution based on a house protocol rather than simply relying on the APIs of Google and Apple. To set up this initiative, France relied on national public and private actors: Inria, ANSSI, Orange, Dassault, etc.
TousAntiCovid does not store any data other than the proximity history of the smartphone. This can also be deleted manually at any time by the user. The application has been developed in such a way as to make it impossible to identify a user or to know who he has met and where he has gone. Guarantees to avoid temptations such as sharing contact tracing data with the police as in Singapore in the context of criminal investigations.
TousAntiCovid = less autonomy?
The autonomy of smartphones is necessarily impacted by the application, which requires to be active in the background and to leave the Bluetooth on. The Directorate General of Health (DGS) admits this itself, speaking about “15 minutes of duration (Editor’s note: autonomy) less per day, depending on the phone“.
To limit the battery draining by the application, it is recommended to activate AntiCovid only in risky situations, in a closed place with a high concentration of people for example (transport, commerce, etc.). The DGS itself explains that such use is sufficient, but you must of course not forget to reactivate the application as soon as you are in a place or situation conducive to the circulation of the virus.