User Concerns & Tradeoffs in Technology-Facilitated Contact Tracing

Elissa M. Redmiles

Contact tracing apps are one of the primary technology-facilitated Coronavirus (COVID) responses currently proposed. In the majority of Western nations there is the expectation that citizens will have the autonomy to decide whether or not to install a COVID-related app. Yet, the more users who install a COVID app, the greater the impact on public health. As explained by Chan et al. the value of users installing a contact-tracing app grows quadratically with the number of users who install. How can we get users to install COVID apps? By understanding and mitigating user concerns and tradeoffs. This document provides a framework for considering the user-relevant components of COVID apps and corresponding user tradeoffs related to these apps. Specifically, we enumerate user tradeoffs related to data collection, data quality, identifier/data encryption, privacy invasion, mobile costs, user agency, benefits from app use, and app transparency. We break down which tradeoffs are relevant for which contact tracing implementations (centralized vs. decentralized, location- vs. proximity-based). Additionally, we compare contact tracing to an alternative technology-facilitated COVID solution: narrowcasts. Narrowcasts are location-personalized broadcasts about COVID hotspots in your vicinity.

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