Coronavirus: divided policies in the face of “tracking”

The use of personal data envisaged by the government arouses distrust from the political class, which claims “guarantees”.

In the fight against Covid-19, should France use the digital tracking of its volunteer citizens, to trace the history of their social relations and warn them if they have encountered a patient who tested positive? Considered by the government, this prospect arouses the circumspection of the political class.

The majority seem more than ever fractured between their left pole, which does not want them, and the intangible supporters of the executive. While LREM MPs will debate it during a videoconference meeting on Thursday, several presidential officials have already expressed their distrust of “tracking”.

Disagreement between numbers one and two of LREM

Starting with Sacha Houlié, who announced Tuesday her firm opposition to this scenario, with the Journal du Dimanche. “I will vote against any measure which goes in this direction. If the decision is made to institute “tracking”, I will control [its] application by the executive “, insisted Tuesday the deputy La République en Marche (LREM) from Vienne, on Europe 1.

The elected official also believes that “we are told that this will be the effective measure to one day come out [of containment], which is false”, according to him. “Singapore has been implementing this tracking for several weeks but is forced to confine itself now, because the epidemic has not been contained.” In recent weeks, the increase in the number of cases has prompted the city-state of Singapore to complete its tracking system by closing its schools and workplaces, and by placing in quarantine nearly 20,000 migrant workers.

Sacha Houlié is not the only one to express doubts in his camp. Wednesday morning, LREM MEP and ex-adviser to Emmanuel Macron, Stéphane Séjourné, said in Le Parisien that “it is wrong to think that Big Brother can save us”, with reference to the character in George’s 1984 novel Orwell, which has become a symbol of general surveillance of the population. “In no case is it an algorithm that will protect people. A plotting tool can only be part of a more comprehensive palette, but not a quick fix, “he said.

Within the majority party, even the first two leaders of LREM express divergent positions. On the one hand, Paris deputy Pierre Person, number two of LREM, rebelled on Monday during an executive office. “Coming to limit the most fundamental of freedoms is indirectly to weaken all the others,” he said.

“This kind of application is a red line that can jeopardize my belonging to the majority. That leaders at the center of the political spectrum open this breach when it can lead our societies to become addicted to illiberal regimes contravenes what we are. ” On the other hand, the boss of LREM, Stanislas Guerini, said he was “going and open” on the subject, so that “we give ourselves all the tools to be able to defeat the virus, including the traceability tools of framed and limited in time ”.

“Guarantees” claimed by oppositions

The oppositions are also revealed to be torn. On the left, La France insoumise and the Communist Party show firm hostility to the measure. “It is useless if everyone is not tested, if everyone does not have a laptop, if we are in an uncovered area”, launched Wednesday Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader from La France insoumise, on Europe 1. “We cannot get out of there with fewer freedoms and more social and digital divides which often overlap”, judges the communist deputy for Seine-Saint Denis, Stéphane Peu, in the columns of Liberation.

In other camps, the opinions expressed are more nuanced: the tracking tool is not categorically rejected, provided that it honors certain “guarantees”. “No geolocation, no data storage”, enumerated on France 2 Wednesday, the MEP (Europe Ecology-The Greens) Yannick Jadot, anxious “that it does not become a mass surveillance system”. “Protection of user anonymity” and “control of the tool by an independent authority”, added in particular the chairman of the senators Les Républicains, Bruno Retailleau, author of a letter to Emmanuel Macron on the subject.

Similar digital safeguards are demanded by the first secretary of the Socialist Party, Olivier Faure. Which insists on the need for a better supply of masks and screening tests. “Under these conditions and only under these conditions, this application would be possible,” he insisted Wednesday on Public Senate. “Tracking can make sense if it is combined with a policy of massive testing,” echoed Jordan Bardella, vice president of the National Rally, on Sud Radio. Opposition responds with many “ifs” to the government’s new proposal.

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