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Device owners demand opt-out power from COVID-19 contact tracing apps

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To encourage widespread acceptance of Bluetooth-based COVID-19 contact tracing applications, developers should allow consumers to opt out of data sharing at any time, and they should also be more forthcoming about their security efforts and data usage, according to the results of a new survey.

For the study, Checkmarx polled 1,500 Americans and found that 48 percent said they would refuse to opt in to contact tracing apps, or would be unlikely to opt in. Another 23 percent said they were on the fence. "This brings about questions of contact tracing effectiveness and accuracy if minimal adoption if seen," Checkmarx concluded in a company blog post today.

However, respondents said that they'd be more likely to use the apps if certain precautions were in place. Thirty-eight percent said their top request would be to be able to opt out of data sharing at whatever point they choose to do so.

Roughly one-third of polled consumers also said developers should provide more details on the security measures they've implemented (35 percent) and offer more transparency surrounding data usage (32 percent).

A smaller number of respondents, 15 percent, said it would be helpful to learn more about the software development process, and 13 percent said they'd appreciate more information about the software's code.

According to Checkmarx, survey-takers identified their main security and privacy concerns as the way their data would be used, stored, or shared (45 percent); third-party access (29 percent); the potential for hacking (28 percent); exposure of health records (27 percent); and risk of location data getting exposed (25 percent).

The study found that 44 percent of users have been using more mobile and web applications since the COVID-19 crisis started, and another 43 percent have been using them at least as much.

Many said during the pandemic that they've tried certain apps for the very first time, including apps for video conferencing (44 percent), food delivery (25 percent), e-commerce (23 percent), virtual learning (19 percent), and finance/banking (16 percent). A majority of respondents, 61 percent, said they were extremely, moderately or somewhat concerned with the security of such apps.

Bradley Barth

As director of multimedia content strategy at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for online conferences, webcasts, podcasts video/multimedia projects — often serving as moderator or host. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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