Study: Half of Americans don’t trust contact-tracing apps

Study: Half of Americans don’t trust contact-tracing apps Ryan is a senior editor at TechForge Media with over a decade of experience covering the latest technology and interviewing leading industry figures. He can often be sighted at tech conferences with a strong coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other. If it's geeky, he’s probably into it. Find him on Twitter (@Gadget_Ry) or Mastodon (

A new study has found that half of Americans wouldn’t trust a COVID-19 contact-tracing app.

Contact-tracing apps are being hailed as key to returning to some degree of normality. The apps use Bluetooth to keep track of everyone an individual passes in order to notify that circle if a COVID-19 diagnosis is made so they can isolate and get tested before spreading the virus further.

Naturally, there are concerns about the amount of data such apps could take about their users.

Google and Apple, as the owners of the world’s largest mobile platforms, have partnered up to create an interoperable API for national healthcare providers to build contact-tracing functionality into their apps.

Both companies have gone a long way to assure critics that the solution is designed to be decentralised and neither the companies, or governments, will receive any information unless the owner decides to share it. On Friday, Apple and Google released an updated FAQ which explains their plan to use a “privacy-preserving identifier” consisting of a string of numbers which change every 20-30 minutes and isn’t linked to a person’s identity. 

However, the efforts so far to assure the wider public about the safety of contact-tracing doesn’t appear to have worked.

According to a poll released today by The Washington Post and University of Maryland, half of the respondents said they probably, or definitely, would not use a contact-tracing app.

The majority of respondents (57%) said they trust public health agencies, while less than half (47%) said they trust health insurance firms. Only 43 percent, however, said they trust companies like Google and Apple.

Research estimates that at least 60 percent of the population need to use contact-tracing apps in order for them to be effective. The poll suggests only around 41 percent of Americans both have the will – and the technical knowledge – to use such apps; which poses a problem for everyone.

One way to incentivise adoption of contact-tracing apps would be to offer perks for those who help to increase public safety by using them. For example, people using the app could be allowed to use restaurants as long as social distancing is still adhered to.

The real hope, of course, is for a vaccine. However, even when one is discovered, it may take a year or so for manufacturing to ramp up and to be globally distributed. Until then, contact-tracing apps remain our best hope at a return to some normality.

(Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash)

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