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Among Americans, Support for Privacy Rights Is High Amid Pandemic

New survey shows over half of Americans say retaining their personal privacy is more important than surrendering it in order to fight the coronavirus.

Note: TDWI’s editors carefully choose press releases related to the data and analytics industry. We have edited and/or condensed this release to highlight key features but make no claims as to the accuracy of the author's statements.

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, governments are scrambling to contain the spread of the disease. As a consequence, the use of extreme measures might be about to become the norm. asked people in the U.S. how they feel about possibly giving up their privacy during the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The survey found huge support for personal privacy.

For example, when it comes to the overall outlook towards privacy in the U.S., an overwhelming majority (89%) of Americans either support or strongly support privacy rights. In fact, over half (52%) of Americans believe that retaining their personal privacy is more important than surrendering it to the authorities in order to fight the spread of the pandemic.

Almost two-thirds (65%) would disapprove of the government collecting their data or using facial recognition to track their whereabouts.

Patient Tracking Apps

In light of countries such as Singapore, Spain, and Poland introducing or preparing to introduce mandatory geolocation and surveillance applications to track COVID-19, proposed four scenarios to respondents. The results include:

  • Only 27% would give an app permission to track their location; 43% said they would not and 29% were not sure
  • Almost a third (30%) would grant an app permission to display their location to others if they were infected; 48% would not and 22% weren’t sure
  • Asked if they would grant permission to a state-sponsored app to analyze location data transmitted by their phone to determine how many people were obeying a government lockdown, 36% said they would but 42% said they would not

Fears of Long-Term Loss of Privacy Rights

Finally, roughly two-thirds of Americans are worried that the tracking measures used to contain the spread of the virus could lead to greater government surveillance:

When asked how worried they are that the tracking measures used to contain the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to greater government surveillance, 9% were not worried, 38% were worried, 36% were very worried, and 17% were not sure.

In addition, most survey respondents (79%) were either somewhat worried or very worried that intrusive tracking measures enacted by the government would continue long after the COVID-19 pandemic has been defeated:

The survey took place in April 2020 among a random sample of 1,255 adults based in the U.S via SurveyMonkey’s “Audience” platform, which says its demographic make-up of respondents is representative of the U.S. population.

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