84% of UK citizens think contact tracing data will be used for purposes unrelated to COVID-19

84% of UK citizens believe their contact tracing data will be used for purposes unrelated to COVID-19.  That’s according to a new report from identity management firm, Okta.

The report – The Cost of Privacy – surveyed 12,000 online consumers globally, including 2,218 in the UK, to determine whether individuals are happy with their data being tracked, particularly for the cause of helping to contain COVID-19.

Distrust in data tracking

Most UK citizens (81%) are aware of efforts to track COVID-19 through smartphone data collection. The pandemic has also increased awareness of data tracking efforts for almost a third of respondents (32%), likely due to media reportage on the topic. But 84% are worried that their contact tracing data will be used by organisations for purposes unrelated to COVID-19.

Advertising is cited as the top purpose, with over three-quarters (79%) worried about their data being used by organisations to serve personalised ads. However, tailored content does not deter everyone. 30% find it acceptable for data to be tracked in order to improve the user experience, while 26% are happy to be shown suggested content they may be interested in.

Most UK respondents are uncomfortable with the idea of companies collecting their data, particularly offline conversations overheard by devices (82%), passwords (79%) and biometric data (77%). 82% are also worried their data will be held insecurely, in addition to concerns about sacrificing too much privacy (76%) and impacting finances, such as insurance premiums (62%).

In some cases, consumers are unaware of which of their data is being collected. A third (33%) do not think their employer collects any data on them, in addition to news outlets (36%), streaming services (20%) and consumer hardware providers (19%).

A data quid pro quo?

Despite concerns, the UK is generally willing to give up data in order to aid containment of COVID-19, and more so than other countries across the globe. 60% of UK respondents said they would be comfortable in providing location data to help the cause, with this figure much lower in countries such as the Netherlands (45%), Germany (47%), the US (48%) and Australia (49%).

Brits are comfortable with their data being collected for purposes including determining where the virus is spreading (66%), tracking who diagnosed individuals have come into contact with (61%) and determining if a vaccine is effective (58%). Over half (60%) of UK respondents also believe smartphone-based data tracking will be effective in containing the virus.

Younger generations want their privacy…

When looking at specific age groups, millennials and generation Z are much more concerned about how their data is used in comparison to their older counterparts.

Almost three-quarters (74%) of those aged 18-34 are worried about law enforcement having access to their data, a figure which shrinks to 47% of over 55s. 84% of 18-34-year-olds are also worried about sacrificing their privacy, higher than the combined average of those aged over 35 (72%).

A value exchange?

The majority (94%) of UK respondents are uncomfortable with the thought of their data being sold. Yet 36% would be willing to share data with companies if they were financially compensated, a figure which rises to 52% of 18-34s.

Consumers are most willing to sell purchase history (63%), location data (62%), browsing history (59%) and details of their online media consumption (59%). However, there are some areas they draw the line, with fewer willing to sell passwords (31%), offline conversations (33%) and biometric data (33%).

OpenMarket indigoIt’s clear there is a cost when it comes to privacy. The question is how much. Okta’s research shows that consumers would generally be willing to accept between £10 and £50 for their location data (31%) or browsing history (30%). Surprisingly, 10% would be willing to give away their password data for under £30. If companies can strike a balance between privacy and innovation, consumers can have control over their data, including where it goes and whether they’re compensated, while companies can still build products that benefit the world.

Jesper Frederiksen, VP & GM EMEA, Okta