Frederic Gerdon, Helen Nissenbaum, Ruben L. Bach, Frauke Kreuter, Stefan Zins
Privacy Attitudes in Times of Crisis: Acceptance of Data Sharing for Public Health?

Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM), (virtual conference), 08. bis 12. August 2021

Contact tracing and donated symptom data aid in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. While such data are highly valuable, a privacy issue may arise if data gathering systems put into place now persist beyond the pandemic and ignore the appropriate flow of information in the future. Do people accept the use of health data for the sake of public health now, and can we infer from current to future acceptance? We happened to conduct a survey experiment in Germany that examined acceptance of sharing data for a public good, among others fighting the spread of an infectious disease, in July 2019. We repeated the study in April 2020 during a peak of the pandemic in Germany. These data reveal changes in respondents’ acceptance to share data for public health purposes in response to the crisis. Acceptance of the use of health data to combat an infectious disease outbreak increased notably between the two measurements, while acceptance of data use in several other scenarios barely changed over time. The data presented here are a good reminder for policymakers to carefully consider the intended purpose of and appropriate limitations on data use.