84% of Brits worry contact-tracing data will be misused

But UK citizens are still willing to give up data in order to help tackle the pandemic

The majority (84%) of UK citizens believe that data collected for contact-tracing will be used for purposes unrelated to tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

According to new research by software company Okta, which surveyed 2,218 online consumers in the UK, most (81%) Brits are aware of the efforts to track COVID-19 through smartphone data collection.

However, respondents also expressed distrust in the process, agreeing with the statement that the information will also be used for other purposes, with 79% stating that they believed that their data would be used by organisations to serve personalised ads.

Nevertheless, the report found that Brits are among the most willing to give up data in order to help tackle the pandemic, with 60% of respondents stating that they would be comfortable in providing location data to aid the cause. 

Okta found that the figure was much lower in countries such as the Netherlands (45%), Germany (47%), the US (48%), and Australia (49%).

Despite concerns over privacy, two-thirds of UK citizens said they were comfortable with their data being collected for purposes such as determining where the virus is spreading and for tracking individuals who had come into contact with those infected. 

A further 58% said they would be willing to share their data in order to determine whether a vaccine is effective, while 60% believe smartphone-based data tracking will be effective in curbing the spread of the virus.

Jesper Frederiksen, VP & GM EMEA at Okta, said that “it’s great to see that despite privacy concerns, UK citizens are willing to provide their data in order to aid containment of COVID-19”.

Despite this, Frederiksen warned that “it’s important that this trust is not abused”.

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“Over half (58%) of British citizens want a limit on who can access this data and many (46%) want a time limit on how long it can be tracked. Those collecting this data need to ensure they restrict who can access it and what it is used for.”

The report follows an announcement from the Minister for Innovation at the Department of Health and Social Care, who said that the COVID-19 contact-tracing app “isn’t the priority” and is unlikely to launch until winter.

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