Would you share your personal data to defeat Covid-19?

New research indicates that the majority of Irish people would be willing to share their personal data if it meant a quicker way to defeat the Covid-19 outbreak.

The research compiled by the Irish Computer Society indicates a massive 87pc of Irish people would be willing to share their personal data and medical records if it helped to solve a global pandemic like Covid-19. While 84pc believe technology will ultimately help to beat the outbreak.

The data comes as the Health Service Executive (HSE) has revealed that a new smartphone app that will facilitate contact tracing will be rolled out in the coming days. The app will use Bluetooth technology to detect when devices are in close contact with each other. When an owner of a device with the app tests positive for Covid-19 the data will enable the contact tracing process to take place more efficiently.

“Governments around the world are already using technology to track the Coronavirus outbreak as they race to stem its spread”

The research was commissioned by the Irish Computer Society as part of currently ongoing Tech Week 2020, which aims to provide new and creative ways to help students engage with technology and provide them with hands-on opportunities to learn about how computing and related technology are reshaping every area of life.

Undertaken for the Irish Computer Society by iReach, the research surveyed 1,000 people across Ireland in a range of age groups, providing insights into perceptions of Covid-19, technology, privacy, working, and social media. It found that:

It found 87pc would be willing to share their personal data and medical records if it helped solve a global pandemic like Covid-19. This number rises to 93pc in the 18-24 and 55+ cohorts.

Putting technology to work to fight Covid-19

“Researchers, businesses and innovators around the world are putting technology to work to alleviate the effects of the global health crisis,” Jim Friars, CEO of the Irish Computer Society said.

“From applications that collect data to track the spread of the virus to 3D printed ventilators for hospitals, it is no wonder that 84pc think technology can help to beat the Coronavirus outbreak.

“Our survey further suggests that there is also a considerable cohort, 60pc who would be open to an implantable device/chip if it made medical conditions easier to manage and enhanced day-to-day life. This figure rises to 71pc in the over 55’s age cohort.”

“Efforts to contain the spread of Coronavirus have also reached new levels. As the pandemic spreads further, it has become clear that personal data will play an essential role in understanding the virus and ultimately containing it. Our survey indicates that the vast majority of people are happy for medical researchers, practitioners, and public health officials to collect and analyse their personal data in a bid to better track the virus, learn more about how it spreads, and predict its movements.”

“One of the most common tools being employed around the world has been the gathering of location data using smartphones and data from mobile networks. Our phones track our steps and many people have wearable devices that can collect statistics on our vitals and lifestyle. Potentially, this data could now be used to track and accelerate a cure for Covid-19.”

“With this data available intelligent machine learning algorithms could identify trends that human experts can miss, then raise insights and recommendations for professionals to review and validate. The process could ultimately speed up detection in the case of Covid-19.”

“Governments around the world are already using technology to track the Coronavirus outbreak as they race to stem its spread. China, Singapore and South Korea are using a combination of location data, video camera footage and credit card information, to track Covid-19 in their countries. There are also proposals to introduce track and trace technology here by way of an opt-in mobile phone app that will allow people to be notified if they were in close proximity to confirmed cases.

“However, while this presents many opportunities, it also raises important questions on data ownership, access and privacy. Concerns have already been raised by privacy activists about the use of temporary ‘symptom tracker’ applications used in the fight against the outbreak. Any personal data collected should be protected to the maximum extent of the law, anonymised as much as possible and disclosed only to health authorities, and not under any circumstances shared with other authorities without explicit consent,” Friars said.

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 1 April, 2020