American Privacy Perceptions in the COVID Pandemic
The on-going COVID-19 pandemic has brought surveillance and privacy concerns to the forefront, given that contact tracing has been seen as a very effective tool to prevent the spread of infectious disease and that public authorities and government officials hope to use it to contain the spread of COVID-19. On the other hand, the rejection of contact tracing tools has also been widely reported, partly due to privacy concerns. We conducted an online survey to identify participants’ privacy concerns and their risk perceptions during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. Our results contradict media claims that people are more willing to share their private information in a public health crisis. We identified a significant difference depending on the information recipient, the type of device, the intended purpose, and thus concretize the claims rather than suggesting a fundamental difference. We note that participants’ privacy preferences are largely impacted by their perceived autonomy and the perceived severity of consequences related to privacy risks. Contrarily, even during an on-going COVID-19 pandemic, health risk perceptions had limited influence on participants’ privacy preference, given only the perceived newness of the risk could weakly increase their comfort level. Finally, our results show that participants’ computer expertise has a positive influence on their privacy preference while their knowledge to security make them less comfortable with sharing.
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