COVID-19 Contact Tracing and Privacy: A Longitudinal Study of Public Opinion

Lucy Simko, Jack Lucas Chang, Maggie Jiang, Ryan Calo, Franziska Roesner, Tadayoshi Kohno

There is growing use of technology-enabled contact tracing, the process of identifying potentially infected COVID-19 patients by notifying all recent contacts of an infected person. Governments, technology companies, and research groups alike have been working towards releasing smartphone apps, using IoT devices, and distributing wearable technology to automatically track "close contacts" and identify prior contacts in the event an individual tests positive. However, there has been significant public discussion about the tensions between effective technology-based contact tracing and the privacy of individuals. To inform this discussion, we present the results of seven months of online surveys focused on contact tracing and privacy, each with 100 participants. Our first surveys were on April 1 and 3, before the first peak of the virus in the US, and we continued to conduct the surveys weekly for 10 weeks (through June), and then fortnightly through November, adding topical questions to reflect current discussions about contact tracing and COVID-19. Our results present the diversity of public opinion and can inform policy makers, technologists, researchers, and public health experts on whether and how to leverage technology to reduce the spread of COVID-19, while considering potential privacy concerns. We are continuing to conduct longitudinal measurements and will update this report over time; citations to this version of the report should reference Report Version 2.0, December 2, 2020.

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