The novel coronavirus or COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11th, 2020 (World Health Organization, 2020). The COVID-19 virus transmits early in its life cycle relative to other coronaviruses, (e.g., SARS), during which time many individuals present as asymptomatic (Zhou et al., 2020). The moderate to high transmissibility of this virus has required governments to consider moderate to extreme measures in order to prevent further transmissions. Indeed, the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic may require governments to use big data technologies to help contain its spread (Bonsall, Parker, & Fraser, 2020).
Countries that have managed to “flatten the curve” - the process of slowing the exponential transmission rate of the virus, for example, Singapore and Taiwan - have employed collocation tracking through mobile Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth as a strategy to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 (Wang et al., 2020). Through collocation tracking, government agencies may observe who you have been in contact with and when this contact occurred, allowing for the rapid implementation of appropriate measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The effectiveness of collocation tracking relies on the willingness of the population to support such measures, implying that government policy-making should be informed by the likelihood of public compliance. Gaining the social license - broad community acceptance beyond formal legal requirements - for collocation tracking requires the perceived public health benefits to outweigh concerns of personal privacy, security, and any potential risk of harm.
This report forms the preliminary results of a longitudinal cross-cultrual study mapping the evolution of people’s attitudes towards government tracking during the COVID-19 crisis. We aim to understand (1) the factors that influence the social license around governmental use of location tracking data in an emergency, (2) how this may change over time, and (3) how this may differ between countries.
The results we present here were collected through a representative survey of Australian residents that assessed their attitudes towards Government tracking during the COVID-19 pandemic. We presented participants with one of two scenarios describing different government tracking methods that may reduce the spread of COVID-19. We then question participants’ attitudes towards the proposed methods.
The two Government tracking scenarios differed in two important ways. In scenario one, participants could opt-in to being tracked by the Government and the collected data could only be used to contact those who may have been exposed to COVID-19. In scenario two, all people using a mobile phone would have their data tracked with no possibility to opt-out, and tracking data could be used to issue fines and arrests for violations of lockdown orders. The two scenarios are presented below:
The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly become a worldwide threat. Containing the virus’ spread is essential to minimise the impact on the healthcare system, the economy, and save many lives. The Taiwanese Government might consider using smartphone tracking data to identify and contact those who may have been exposed to people with COVID-19. This would help reduce community spread by identifying those most at risk and allowing health services to be appropriately targeted. Only people that downloaded a government app and agreed to be tracked and contacted would be included in the project. The more people that download and use this app the more effectively the Government would be able to contain the spread of COVID-19. Data would be stored in an encrypted format on a secure server accessible only to the Taiwanese Government. Data would only be used to contact those who might have been exposed to COVID-19. 流行病COVID-19 已經迅速地威脅了全球人類的健康。為了減少對醫療保健系統、經濟的影響，並挽救許多生命，「如何限制病毒傳播」是當前最重要的議題。台灣政府可能考慮使用智慧型手機定位追蹤數據，用來識別和聯繫那些可能已經接觸過COVID-19患者的人。用此定位追蹤技術可以辨識出具有高風險的族群並精準地給予治療，能夠降低社區傳染的風險。但不是所有台灣人都需要參與此計畫，而是只有下載政府提供的應用程式（手機APP），並同意進行追蹤和聯繫的人，才會被包含在該計畫中。因此，下載和使用此應用程式的人越多，政府就能更加有效地限制COVID-19的傳播。而這些定位追蹤的數據將以加密格式儲存在安全的伺服器上，只有台灣政府能讀取該伺服器資料。同時，這些資料僅能用於聯繫可能暴露在COVID-19感染風險下的民眾，不會另做其他用途。
The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly become a worldwide threat. Containing the virus’ spread is essential to minimise the impact on the healthcare system, the economy, and save many lives. The Taiwanese Government might consider using phone tracking data supplied by telecommunication companies to identify and contact those who may have been exposed to people with COVID-19. This would help reduce community spread by identifying those most at risk and allowing health services to be appropriately targeted. All people using a mobile phone would be included in the project, with no possibility to opt-out. Data would be stored in an encrypted format on a secure server accessible only to the Taiwanese Government who may use the data to locate people who were violating lockdown orders and enforce them with fines and arrests where necessary. Data would also be used to inform the appropriate public health response and to contact those who might have been exposed to COVID-19, and individual quarantine orders could be made on the basis of this data.
These results represent a snapshot from the first 584 participants collected for the project, Establishing the social licence for Government tracking in Taiwan. This representative sample was gathered through the data collection platform SurvetCake.
Notes on cleaning the data.
The final sample for analysis was 584 participants.
Gender was evenly divided between men and women. Within our sample, participants most frequently reported as having a university education (61.6%) or a higher school education (38%). Ages ranged from 18 years to 72 years (M = 29.3 years, SD = 11.5 years). The distribution of reported ages was positively skewed within the age range 20–80, and under represented for ages 80+.
|Gender identification: Percentages|
|Prefer not to say||0.3|
|Level of education: Percentages|
|< High School||0.3|
Distribution of ages.
## Descriptive Statistics ## COVIDdata$age ## N: 584 ## ## age ## ----------------- -------- ## Mean 29.32 ## Std.Dev 11.55 ## Min 18.00 ## Q1 20.00 ## Median 24.00 ## Q3 37.00 ## Max 72.00 ## MAD 7.41 ## IQR 17.00 ## CV 0.39 ## Skewness 1.16 ## SE.Skewness 0.10 ## Kurtosis 0.77 ## N.Valid 584.00 ## Pct.Valid 100.00
Participants reported as being under lockdown for an average of 0.66 (SD = 2.94) days, with the most frequent amount of time in lockdown reported as zero days (n = 517; 88.5%). Three point four percent of participants reported as having lost their job due to COVID-19. The most common source of COVID-19 information came from Newspaper (60.8%) and Social media (27.7%), followed by TV (8%). Of the 584 participants, one (0.002%) reported that they had tested positive with COVID-19, and 8 (1.4%) indicated they knew someone who had tested positive with COVID-19.
hist(COVIDdata$COVID_ndays_4, xlab="Days in lockdown",main="", breaks = 50)
|I have lost my job: Percentages|
|I lost my job|
|Information source: Percentages|
|Newspaper (printed or online)||60.8|
|Somebody I know tested positive for COVID-19: Percentages|
|Tested pos someone I know|
When asked about COVID-19 within the Taiwanese population, participants most frequently reported the virus to be moderate in severity and that the virus posed a somewhat harmful risk to their personal health. Responses were both normally distributed around these moderate values.
When asked about their concern over testing positive to COVID-19, participants were normally distributed and centered on moderatly concerned. When asked about their concern over someone they know testing positive to COVID-19, participants responses were negatively skewed, showing a bias in their concerned for the health of others. A strong correlation was observed between personal harm and concern for others (r = .69).
## COVID_gen_harm COVID_pers_harm COVID_pers_concern ## COVID_gen_harm 1.000 0.312 0.394 ## COVID_pers_harm 0.312 1.000 0.386 ## COVID_pers_concern 0.394 0.386 1.000 ## COVID_concern_oth 0.332 0.335 0.686 ## COVID_concern_oth ## COVID_gen_harm 0.332 ## COVID_pers_harm 0.335 ## COVID_pers_concern 0.686 ## COVID_concern_oth 1.000
The following violine plots characterizes participant’s confidence that in each scenario Government tracking would:
Participants were more confident that they would not contract COVID-19 and that they would resume their normal activities under scenario two. Participants were confident that both scenarios would reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The following table displays participant’s acceptability of Government tracking, as probed by a single item immediately after reading scenario one or two. For scenario one, the question refers to whether a participant would download the app. For the scenario two, the question refers to the acceptability of the tracking mandated by government. In both instances, participants generally reported that the measures were acceptable. Acceptability was not significant between scenario one (78.5%) and scenario two (84.1%; \(\chi^2\) = 2.618).
|Scenario One||Acceptability of policy||No||21.5|
|Scenario Two||Acceptability of policy||No||15.9|
## ## Pearson's Chi-squared test with Yates' continuity correction ## ## data: unlabel(accept1$value) and unlabel(accept1$key) ## X-squared = 2.6178, df = 1, p-value = 0.1057
The following table displays participant’s acceptability of Government tracking as probed after they have answer a series of questions about a scenario. The general trend in acceptability remains after answering questions about Government tracking, with acceptability being even between scenario one (78.1%) and scenario two (78.0%; \(\chi^2\) = 8.5314e-31). After answer questions about the scenario’s tracking methods, participants became less accepting of Government tracking in scenario tow (a reduction of 6%).
|Scenario One||Acceptability of policy||No||21.9|
|Scenario Two||Acceptability of policy||No||22.0|
## ## Pearson's Chi-squared test with Yates' continuity correction ## ## data: unlabel(accept2$value) and unlabel(accept2$key) ## X-squared = 8.5314e-31, df = 1, p-value = 1
The following results were collected from those people who indicated that they would not download the app (scenario one) or who indicated that Government tracking was not acceptable (scenario two).
The following table describes acceptability of Government tracking if a sunset clause were included in the tracking policy, for example, limiting Government tracking to a period of six months after which the data would be destroyed. Of those participants who viewed scenario two, 37.3% deemed tracking to be acceptable under a sunset clause. In scenario one, only 36.2% changed their attitude and deemed tracking accepatable under a sunset clause.
|Scenario One||Acceptability with sunset||No||62.7|
|Scenario Two||Acceptability with sunset||No||63.8|
The following tables describe acceptability of Government tracking if i) the tracking data were to stay on the phone and only be uploaded with the consent of the individual (scenario one only), and ii) if participants were able to opt-in to the data collection (scenario two only).
|Acceptability with local storage|
|Acceptability with opt out|
These responses were combined into a quasi-interval scale using the following coding scheme: YES=acceptable; NO=not acceptable unless sunset or optout; -1=not acceptable unless the inclusion of sunset or opt-out (but not both); -2=not acceptable under any circumstances
|Acceptability of policy|
The next graph shows responses to the following items (abridged from survey):
The following results hold across both scenario one and scenario two. Participants generally displayed a high degree of Government trust and indicated that the Government was only collecting data necessary for COVID-19 tracing. Participants generally believed that the Government would ensure their privacy and secure their data. Although participants did not view the risk of harm in collecting this data as particularly high, they did understand that the data collected was sensitive (i.e., in need of security and privacy).
We relate a composite of the 3 worldview items to the composite of the 4 items probing perceived risk from COVID. Worldview is scored such that greater values reflect greater libertarianism. The appeared to be no effect of libertarian world-view on acceptability of Government tracking within Taiwanese participants.
## `geom_smooth()` using method = 'loess' and formula 'y ~ x'
## ## Pearson's product-moment correlation ## ## data: COVIDdata$Worldview and COVIDdata$COVIDrisk ## t = -1.7144, df = 582, p-value = 0.08699 ## alternative hypothesis: true correlation is not equal to 0 ## 95 percent confidence interval: ## -0.15115035 0.01030818 ## sample estimates: ## cor ## -0.07088538
Similarly, we relate the composite of the 3 worldview items to the composite of the two trust-in-government items. There appears to be a very small negative relationship between Government trust and libertarian world-view within Taiwanese participants.
## `geom_smooth()` using method = 'loess' and formula 'y ~ x'
## Warning: Removed 23 rows containing non-finite values (stat_smooth).
## Warning: Removed 23 rows containing missing values (geom_point).
## ## Pearson's product-moment correlation ## ## data: COVIDdata$Worldview and COVIDdata$govtrust ## t = -2.3502, df = 582, p-value = 0.0191 ## alternative hypothesis: true correlation is not equal to 0 ## 95 percent confidence interval: ## -0.17670467 -0.01595172 ## sample estimates: ## cor ## -0.0969605
Bonsall, D., Parker, M., Fraser, C. (2020).Sustainable containment of COVID-19 using smartphones in China: Scientific and ethical underpinnings for implementation of similar approaches in other settings.
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