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June 18, 2020

Contact tracing apps face uptake challenges in US

By GlobalData Technology

Results of a recent survey do not provide a lot of optimism that the US is prepared to use contact tracing to clamp down on the spread of Covid-19. For a country struggling to truly flatten the curve and brace for a likely second wave in the fall, that’s not good news.

According to a June survey of over 2,000 respondents by security software vendor Avira, 71% of Americans indicate they do not plan to download a Covid-19 contact tracing app, primarily because of digital privacy concerns.

Disturbingly, respondents working in government and healthcare were the least likely to download the technology, with 84% of people indicating they would not use contact tracing apps.

The survey results highlight a particular challenge in the US. Countries with the most effective smartphone-based contact tracing programs, such as China and Taiwan, have taken authoritarian approaches in which the technology runs on smartphones without requiring governments to receive permission from users.

Contact tracing is growing in Europe

However, even European governments with far less authoritarian traditions have been much more willing to embrace the smartphone-based technology. A host of European countries, including Italy, France, and even privacy stalwart Germany, have adopted national contact tracing apps in the past several weeks, with the UK likely to follow suit soon.

In point of fact, some of these sovereign-sponsored apps are considered ‘voluntary.’ However, a shared sense of urgency on remaining vigilant on Covid-19 appears to be outweighing privacy concerns, at least for now.

That is clearly not the case in the US, despite the fact that nearly half of all states are attempting to relax Covid-19 restrictions while simultaneously experiencing concerning spikes in both new cases and hospitalizations.