Data trust in decline amid COVID-19 pandemic

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Monday, 15 November, 2021

Data trust in decline amid COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on Australians’ trust in how governments and companies are using their private data, new research from the Australian National University (ANU) suggests.

The research found that two years of being required to use check-in apps during the pandemic has resulted in an erosion in people’s trust in major institutions to maintain their data privacy from an average of 5.70 to 5.49 out of 10 between May 2020 and August 2021.

ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods Professor Nicholas Biddle said while the decline may seem small, it is significant.

“This is especially the case as the pandemic, lockdowns and the use of apps for contact tracing continued, and even intensified in some cases,” he said.

“Our analysis, covering a time when much of the east coast of Australia was living in lockdown, shows Australians were starting to get more wary about how their private data from check-in apps might be used by major institutions, including governments and corporations.”

But the research still found that trust in institutions to maintain data privacy remains higher than it was pre-pandemic — in October 2018 Australians’ trust in how institutions maintain data privacy was on average just 4.78.

“Australians also expressed an increase in concern about the overall security of personal data and information — jumping from 20.82 to 21.40 on a scale of seven to 28 over the same period,” Biddle said.

Meanwhile the research found that women are more likely to comply with the requirement to check in than men, with 67.4% of women saying they always do compared to 56.3% of men.

Compliance was also lower among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, those born overseas in a non-English-speaking country, those with low levels of education and those outside of the most advantaged areas.

But Biddle said that even among those with low trust in how institutions use their data compliance remained high, with 54.2% stating that they always use check-in apps.

“While this is quite a fair bit lower than those who have high trust in institutions (68.5%), it shows that despite their concerns, many Australians are doing the right thing and what they have been asked to do by governments to help keep each other and their communities safe during the pandemic,” he said.

Image credit: © Nipot

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