The official Corona Warning App of the German government has already been downloaded several million times. IT security experts from Bochum have investigated which factors ensure public acceptance and which technologies people in Germany reject. Shortly before the app was rolled out, they surveyed 1,200 participants in a representative online study. The results were published by the team from the Cluster of Excellence Cyber Security in the Age of Large-Scale Adversaries, Casa for short, and the Horst Görtz Institute for IT Security at the Ruhr University Bochum together with colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Security and Privacy on 26 June 2020 XXXXX .
Personal experience with Covid-19 makes the difference
The Corona Warning App is designed to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus by simplifying the contact tracing of infected persons. Shortly before the app was available, the researchers from Bochum asked both people who had already been infected with Covid-19 and people who had not yet been infected with the corona virus about their attitude towards corona tracing apps.
Around half of the people who had not yet experienced Covid-19 could imagine using a contact tracing app. "Acceptance was significantly higher among people who had already tested positive for the corona virus themselves," says Prof. Dr. Markus Dürmuth from the RUB Mobile Security Department. Two thirds of these respondents could imagine using a contact tracking app. "Personal experience with the virus therefore plays a major role in the acceptance of the app," the scientist continues. Vice versa, people who are being less affected by the pandemic should therefore be intensively advertised for its use.
The study also showed that the acceptance of contact tracking apps is significantly higher in the German population than that of other types of corona apps - for example, for the purpose of quarantine monitoring or purely for information about the development of the pandemic.
Anonymization of data increases acceptance
According to the team, the data and privacy fundamentals of the apps are an important basis for user acceptance. Hence, people's scepticism towards corona apps is growing if position and health data are to be collected in addition to encounter data. Many more people are also willing to use such an application if the data used does not allow any conclusions about the person. " Most of the people surveyed were generally sceptical about the passing on of data, especially when it came to forwarding it to the police, companies or the public," explains Dr. Martin Degeling from the Chair of System Security. " For this reason, it would be advisable for the German government to restrict the purposes of using the app in a law."
With follow-up studies in the USA and China, the researchers intend to gain a wider insight. "With the study, we want to find out in different countries at different points in the progress of the pandemic which factors could have an influence on use and acceptance of the apps," explains Markus Dürmuth. In Germany and the USA, the current rollout of a contact tracking app is a novelty - in Asian countries, however, such apps have been in use for a long time. "However, they are often based on technical principles that would be unthinkable in Europe for data protection reasons - for example, the simple use of GPS signals sent to a centrally stored server," says Dürmuth. The team intends to further investigate the influence of these different conditions.
Steffen Becker, Martin Degeling, Markus Dürmuth, Florian M. Farke, Leonie Schaewitz, Theodor Schnitzler, Christine Utz: Akzeptanz von Corona-Apps in Deutschland vor der Einführung der Corona-Warn-App, 2020, Online Preprint
Prof. Dr. Markus Dürmuth
Research Group Mobile Security
Tel.: +49 234 32 26694
Dr. Martin Degeling
Chair for Systems Security
Tel.: +49 234 32 24085
General note: In case of using gender-assigning attributes we include all those who consider themselves in this gender regardless of their own biological sex.