Regarding the Washington Post’s Poll on Americans’ Willingness to Use Smartphone Apps for Exposure Notification

Craig Timberg, Drew Harwell, and Alauna Safarpour, reporting for The Washington Post:

Among the 82 percent of Americans who do have smartphones, willingness to use an infection-tracing app is split evenly, with 50 percent saying they definitely or probably would use such an app and an equal percentage saying they probably or definitely would not. Willingness runs highest among Democrats and people reporting they are worried about a covid-19 infection making them seriously ill. Resistance is higher among Republicans and people reporting a lower level of personal worry about getting the virus.

Imagine how this number might change if Apple and Google offered, say, $5 in credit for the iTunes and Play stores for anyone who enabled the system setting and installed an exposure notification app from their local government. Or if Google and Apple jointly create some TV commercials to promote this effort while simultaneously explaining how private it is.

A major source of skepticism about the infection-tracing apps is distrust of Google, Apple and tech companies generally, with a majority expressing doubts about whether they would protect the privacy of health data. A 57 percent majority of smartphone users report having a “great deal” or a “good amount” of trust in public health agencies, and 56 percent trust universities. That compares with 47 percent who trust health insurance companies and 43 percent who trust tech companies like Google and Apple.

The results of this poll are getting a lot of press, but this paragraph shows just how fundamentally flawed the questions were. The pollsters who wrote the questions and these reporters from the Post clearly have no idea what Apple and Google are actually doing. Apple and Google are not making an “app”. They’re creating system-level APIs so that official government health agencies around the world can create apps. So if people trust public health agencies more than they trust Apple and Google, that actually means they are already more likely to trust such apps, when they become available, because the apps will bear the imprimatur of their respective local health agencies.

This shit is important, let’s get it right.

Thursday, 30 April 2020