A virus called COVID-19 (most commonly known as the Corona virus), is currently keeping the world in suspense. Seriously affected countries such as China, Korea and Italy have already taken drastic measures like quarantining entire regions, in order to keep the spread of the virus under control. Recently, China even introduced an app that provides information on the health status of each individual. The decisions to which extent people are allowed to move around in public spaces, is based on the information provided by this app. These measures seem to be bearing fruit in China, but are such scenarios also imaginable in Germany? Would the German population accept such decisions or go on the warpath? After all, data protection is sacred to Germans, isn’t it?
As a tech company and CMP provider, we at Usercentrics were also concerned with this question. For this reason, we conducted a representative survey together with the market research institute Innofact in March 2020. In this survey, 1,020 Germans between the ages of 18 and 69 were asked about their attitude towards data protection during the Corona crisis. The question we were concerned with was: How much privacy would Germans be willing to sacrifice to help contain the Corona crisis?
The results were very interesting. The gist was that the majority of the German population (across all age groups) are willing to give up some of their privacy if it helps to contain the virus.
Specifically, the survey disclosed the following findings
- 71.9 percent of Germans would voluntarily share personal health data, motion profiles or social contact points with public institutions such as the Robert Koch Institute.
- 60.4 percent would voluntarily share personal data such as e-mail, telephone number or whereabouts with competent authorities in order to be informed in case of dangers.
- 39.9 percent would share data from their social media accounts such as Instagram or Facebook so that all contact persons can be tracked and notified in case of suspected Corona cases.
- 69.5 percent are in favor of expanding the time span for data retention of flight and travel data so that they can be notified in case of suspicion or to contain the spread of the virus.
- 54.6 percent would allow public authorities to use personal motion profiles to track the spread of the virus.
- 66.8 percent would even be willing to be registered in a public database by name in case of infection to warn third parties who were in contact with them.
- 63.8 percent said they would be willing to waive personal data protection in order to protect themselves from the virus and save human lives.
What can we conclude from these findings?
Our CEO Mischa Rürup sums up: “Not surprisingly, the majority of the population seems to have realised the gravity of the situation. However, it is impressive that they are also willing to disclose data in order to adequately protect themselves and third parties. If politicians want to introduce digital measures to support the fight against corona (and other infectious diseases in the future), they can be sure of the support of the population”.
But is it legally possible at all to fight the Corona virus using data-driven methods?
Our co-founder Lisa Gradow adds: “In this case, it would be essential to obtain the consent of those affected. Without explicit consent, such a project is not be possible. It is inadmissible, for example, to analyse mobile phone data of patients and their motion profiles. However, this would be possible with a consent that is obtained voluntarily and in an informed, explicit and specific way, i.e. in compliance with GDPR. It is important that the person concerned must have the possibility to withdraw his or her consent at any time. The use of the data would be limited to a single purpose. So no one needs to fear that a Pandora’s box will be opened up.”
Infographic for the survey
Click on the infographic to enlarge it