More than half of American citizens are said to be willing to share their medical data regarding Covid-19 and others, but the fear of state surveillance remains.
As the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases hovers around 30 million worldwide, governments are looking for ways, if not to eradicate infections, at least to mitigate the impact on medical systems and reduce the pressure felt by hospitals to treat the most serious cases.
Contact tracing crisscrosses Europe
Among the methods proposed, we hear a lot about contact tracing, a concept based on the sharing by individuals of the places they have been, in particular through mobile applications that automatically notify users if they have been in contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19.
In France, the StopCovid application, a government initiative, uses this method. From the announcement of its development, the application faced a flood of criticism, particularly concerning the protection of personal data. This may be part of the reason for some failure.
The European Union, for its part, is starting to test an interoperability gateway service for national contact tracing and alerting applications, in order to combat the spread of the virus on the continent. These tests have started in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Latvia. However, the choices made by France for StopCovid prevent it from integrating this initiative.
So while these apps may help track and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in a population, privacy protection remains a concern, especially if users’ mobile and location data ends up in centralized servers to which agencies governments can access it for purposes other than pandemic control.
In the United States, however, many citizens are ready to take the plunge, for the common good.
Americans ready to share medical data to help research
This Wednesday, Virtru published the results of a study exploring the attitude of the inhabitants of the United States towards contact tracing and the sharing of medical files, as part of the fight against Covid-19. The study is based on a survey conducted by The Harris Poll for Virtru in July and contains responses from more than 2,000 US citizens, aged 18 and over.
In total, just over half of those surveyed (52%) say they are ready to share their health data with government agencies, even beyond Covid-19, if it can help fight the coronavirus and improve medical research more generally. If given control of access to their own information and if they are able to block access or delete data at any time, even 61% of respondents say they are in favor of this system. .
However, when it comes to information collected by contact tracing applications, such as location and user data, 42% of respondents are not confident about their privacy.
Finally, it is in contact tracing applications provided by healthcare providers or technology companies that trust is greatest, with 34% and 28% respectively of respondents saying they have confidence.
The fear of state surveillance
However, 58% of Americans surveyed are not confident about the security and privacy of applications from state or technology vendors. The idea of ”state surveillance” is very present, due to US mass surveillance programs like FISA, massive data collection and attempts to force technology providers to deliberately install doors. stolen from encrypted services.
In total, 62% of participants cite these reasons as potential obstacles to their willingness to share their health data beyond the results of their Covid-19 test with government agencies. Overall, 31% of respondents add that the government’s attitude towards surveillance has a “major impact” on their willingness to share sensitive medical information.
“As we continue to fight the pandemic, and at a time when trust in each other as well as in institutions is most crucial, we live in a massive trust deficit,” says John Ackerly, CEO of Virtru. “While we all appreciate the convenience that technology brings us, our personal information has become an economic engine and even a weapon. Therefore, we have very little control over them. So when we are asked to share our most sensitive health information, it is understandable to fear that the data will be used and shared beyond what is requested. “