Pandemic dents trust that private information remains private

Professor Nicholas Biddle. Picture: ANU
Professor Nicholas Biddle. Picture: ANU

Nearly two years of the pandemic have shaken public trust in whether governments and companies can keep their private information private.

Between May last year when the pandemic really took hold and this August, researchers at the Australian National University found that people's belief that institutions could keep data private fell.

One of the authors of the research, Professor Nicholas Biddle from the ANU Centre for Social Research, said the drop was "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.

"The organisations that experienced the biggest decrease in trust were the Federal Government, state and territory governments, social media companies and companies people used for online purchases."

But he said that the public keep using the apps and codes despite the fall in trust in them.

And trust in institutions to keep private data private was still higher than it was before the pandemic, even with the last year's fall.

The study involving 3000 adults also examined which Australians were most likely to use check-in apps.


It found that women were more likely to check-in than men, with two thirds of women saying they always checked-in at an entrance compared with a half of men.

"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 were all less likely to use check-in apps as well," according to the researchers.

Vaccinated Australians were much more likely to use check in apps.

The study is part of Australia's largest and longest running study on the impact of the pandemic across the nation. It's led by the ANU Centre for Social Research.

This story Pandemic dents trust that private info remains private first appeared on The Canberra Times.