Population Overwhelmingly in Favor of Coronavirus Tracing App

A tracing app could make an important contribution to containing the spread of the coronavirus. In a representative study with 1,000 participants, a team of social scientists from the University of Mannheim found out that an overwhelming majority of the population would be willing to install such an app.

A tracing app, combined with other measures, can only be effective if the level of acceptance in the population is about 80 percent. In the study, the researchers not only polled people’s general willingness to install such an app, but also whether factors such as the app design or an automatic installation on all mobile phones could have an influence on the use of the app and how it is accepted by the population.

Three quarters of survey participants willing to install tracing app
When asked about whether they would personally install the tracing app, roughly 75% of the study participants said they would “definitely” or “probably” do so – regardless of their age or gender. Only participants whose trust in the government is generally low were less inclined to want to install the app.

A significant majority of participants also said they would definitely follow instructions by the app to self-quarantine should the app establish contact with an infected person. Participants were even more willing to do so in light of a possible self-commitment by the Robert Koch Institute to test affected people swiftly. Most people surveyed even said that they would hold the Federal Government in higher esteem for introducing such a tracing app – as long as the installation remained voluntary.

Slight majority for automatic installation
A slight majority of the survey participants was also in favor of an automatic installation of the app on all mobile phones (with the option to uninstall). However, only 60% said they would “definitely” or “probably” keep an automatically installed app on their phone.

Fear of government surveillance one of the main reasons against installation
Nearly a third of the study participants was concerned that installing the app could lead to increased government surveillance after the end of the epidemic. In addition, about 25% were worried that their phones would become an easier target for hackers. The unwillingness to activate Bluetooth on their phones was another major reason for participants not to want to install the app.

However, according to Professor Frauke Kreuter, who holds the Chair of Statistics and Methods of Social Research and who directed the study, it would be possible to alleviate these concerns for instance by choosing an app design that does not require location data and that only uses Bluetooth connections and local data storage on people’s phones. In addition, the political decision-makers could further increase people’s willingness to install the app by communicating its advantages in a clear and transparent manner. The developers of the app should also pay special attention to ensuring that the installation of the app does not make phones more vulnerable to outside access.

Link to the study: https://osf.io/z6ws4/