« We must refuse digital tracing »

We relay here an open letter sent to federal, Walloon and Brussels parliamentarians, dated May 12, 2020.

While a progressive decontamination is being set up, expected by all, we would like to draw your attention to the risks inherent to a measure advocated by some to limit the spread of the coronavirus and avoid a rebound of the epidemic.

This is, of course, digital tracking, which identifies the interpersonal relationships of individuals through their smartphone and an application using Bluetooth. While digital tracing does not seem to be favored by regional authorities at the moment, it is still very much on the minds of some experts and policy makers. 

The adoption a legal framework for its possible use confirms well that this « solution » is still relevant. However, we must insist on on the inherently dangerous nature of this technology, dangerous for our individual liberties, the respect of life and the use of our personal data to our company. insu.

Certainly, everyone agrees that the system would be based on the volunteerism; but insofar as its operation is presented as requiring a high level of participation to be effective, the social pressure exerted on the recalcitrant risks quickly become unbearable. As soon as you move into a climate of fear of a new wave of contamination, the tendency to submission will prevail over any other consideration. Nothing In this context, it is possible to guarantee that the system will not become term mandatory.

Reaching privacy through digital tracking is evident since not only interpersonal relationships but also the movements of any participant are known through the exchanges between its smartphone and the connected objects it encounters.

Equally obvious is the transfer of citizen responsibility to a technical tool controlled by a health bureaucracy. In case of prohibited movements, the way is open for a system of automatic sanctions. It will be objected that legal guidelines and technical safeguards are able to avoid or, at least, limit the above-mentioned « inconveniences ». We would like to point out that, according to researchers and experts who are not suspected of technophobia, the technical safeguards are very fragile.

According to Maarten Van Steen, professor of large-scale computer networking at the University of Twente (Netherlands), Bluetooth is highly inaccurate and incapable of assessing the actual distance between two users(1). In addition, like all systems, Bluetooth is hackable and many security holes are regularly discovered. The last one is very recent. In February 2020, Google released a patch for a critical flaw that affects Android’s Bluetooth subsystem and allows control of any vulnerable device in range. Experts then advised Android users to disable Bluetooth until they receive the update(2).

Furthermore, with regard to the anonymization of the data collected, it is considered by some experts as an illusory protection(3). As for legal guidelines, history teaches us that they are often « adapted » to the tide of technical progress  » designed to protect us « .

Finally, another worrying risk is that of discrimination established by the system: anyone who does not have a smartphone or not accepting the application could be denied access to work or to certain public places.

We enters straight into the technologist totalitarianism, all the more insidious that it is hidden behind the respectable objective of protection of public health while the effectiveness of the system is far from guaranteed.

In In conclusion, we claim that digital tracing is a virulent technology for a democratic, respectful society fundamental rights and human dignity. Its advantages are very hypothetical and are based primarily on the submission of all and the abandonment of all responsibility individual.

We Therefore, we ask you to refuse this so-called answer and to vote against any proposal to change it. to be adopted.


Paul Lannoye, Honorary Member of the European Parliament, Doctor of Physical Sciences
Marie-Christine Coene, citizen
Martine Dardenne, Honorary Senator, Romanist
Michèle Gilkinet, former federal parliamentarian.
Michèle Goedert, architect
Geneviève Hilgers, historian
Armel Job, writer
Gérard Lambert, economist
Nathalie Lannoye, lawyer
Viviane Lardinois, biologist
Francis Leboutte, civil engineer
Bernard Legros, teacher
Jean-Marie Martin, economist
Sylviane Roncins, family therapist
Pierre Stein, development sociologist.
Inès Trépant, political scientist
Catherine Uyttenhove, PhD in biology
Daniel Zink, philosopher

Notes et références
  1. Cité dans De Standaard du 25 avril 2020
  2. Cyrille Dalmont, chercheur associé à l’Institut Thomas More : « Traçage numérique. Pourquoi c’est non ». http://institut-thomas-more.org/2020/04/27/tracage-numeriquepourquoi-cest-non
  3. Luc Rocher, chercheur à l’ICTEAM de l’Université catholique de Louvain, « Des données anonymes… ou pas ! » https://uclouvain.be/fr/sciencetoday/actualites/desdonnees-anomymes-ou-pas.html

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