The UK government is currently trialling a acquaintance archetype app among association of the Isle of Wight ahead of a plan to roll it out across England. The app is advised to alert users if they have been in acquaintance with addition who has appear COVID-19 affection and animate them to self-isolate. But success will depend on the number of people who are accommodating to absolutely use it.

We conducted a non-representative survey of 730 people on May 11 – six days into the trial – which has thrown up some allegation that could help work out what would argue people to use this app.

Overall, we found assorted apropos about how it operates. Amid affair that the app would gather advice in a axial database, respondents were less afraid about that and more about who would be able to access the data and how it would be stored.

Paradoxically, there was also a strong charge to downloading the app. Just under 75% of people said they were likely to download the app (28% moderately likely, 20% very likely, and 25% acutely likely). Only 13% said they were not likely at all.

Why might there be such strong abutment for the use of a contact-tracing app in England if there are absolute apropos about how it operates?

Data aloofness is a cogent concern, with 86% of respondents saying it was very or acutely important to them that their data was fully anonymized. And 73% said it was very or acutely important that their data was only stored for a bound amount of time. Some 58% were very or acutely anxious about aloofness aegis and 60% of people that their data might be used for purposes other than archetype COVID-19.

None of this can have been helped by the vagueness with which data aloofness affairs have been handled. When the government appear a key certificate on the Isle of Wight pilot, it redacted the parts on data aegis and gave only cryptic advice about user anonymity.

Track, trace, and trust

There is prior affirmation that could help here. We know that public abutment for added police powers to tackle the virus (such as drones, facial acceptance and GPS mobile phone tracking to accomplish social distancing) is rooted in public trust and police legitimacy. When the public trusts authorities, their apropos about aloofness are mitigated. They can feel reassured that new technologies, laws, and powers will be used in the actual way and not be abused.

In our survey, we found that less than a third of participants (32%) had a lot or a fair amount of aplomb in the government to handle the COVID-19 crisis. Only 31% had a lot or a fair amount of aplomb in the prime minister.

This might be explained, in part, by the boundless abashing caused by the prime minister’s speech on May 10 announcement changes to lockdown advice. We ran our survey the day after and just 28% of respondents said they trusted the government to give them a clear account of what everybody needs to be doing and not doing.

On the other hand, 85% of respondents appear a lot or a fair amount of aplomb in the NHS, so the government’s accommodation to brand the app as the “NHSX-app” may well enhance abutment for it – even though NHSX is a government unit. And, indeed, 87% said that data from the app only being attainable by the NHS was very or acutely important to them.


Believing that it is only the NHS that will be able to access data from the app may also override public apropos about it being centralized rather than decentralized, since people trust the NHS but not politicians, with their data.

We found a hardly higher level of abutment for the centralized model. Some 58% of participants appear that they were very likely or acutely likely to download the app if anonymized data was uploaded to a remote government server, versus 48% who were very likely or acutely likely to download the app if data stays on a user’s phone with no axial blank of the virus spread.

In our survey, some people were presented with a system in which data from the app is fed anon into an NHS database. Others were presented with a system in which “no centralized database of users, their movements and contacts are required, and no claimed advice is used”. The centralized NHS database system accustomed more abutment than the decentralized bearding system.

In it together

Our survey also found that a aggregate sense of albatross may drive abutment for the app.

A recent study into lockdown acquiescence found that self-reported adherence to social break requirements was rooted not in fear of the virus, police, or law, but in social norms (backed up by legal requirement). Making social break a legal claim may have adequate public acquiescence not through aegis but by signaling that the nation needs to take social break seriously.

We asked participants the extent to which they agreed with statements such as “by making it a legal requirement, the government sent the bulletin that social break is important to fight the pandemic” (96% agreed) and “observing the social break laws shows other people in my association that I care for their safety” (84% agreed). Another 83% agreed that “following the social break rules helps me feel that I am part of the aggregate fight adjoin the pandemic.”

A sense of common fate and everybody acting for the common good seems to spill over into or be bidding by, abutment for a acquaintance archetype app that is acerb associated with the NHS. And while that was a strong force in the early weeks of lockdown, when there was boundless abutment for the measures, it’s less clear that the same will be true in this next period, when there is potentially less accord about the best course of action.The Conversation

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