Most Canadians would sacrifice privacy to help stop Covid-19, finds KPMG survey

15 May 2020 2 min. read

Though 92% of Canadians believe that digital contact-tracing apps should balance privacy concerns with public safety, 60% said they would sacrifice their privacy if it helped to stop the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey from KPMG. The consulting firm polled 2,000 Canadians between May 7 and May 12.

Most Canadians (55%), however, believe that contact-tracing should be voluntary, citing privacy concerns and potential abuse of civil liberties, while two-thirds said they would not download such an “invasive” app.

Contact-tracing apps track if one person’s smartphone was in close vicinity with other smartphones. If a person is diagnosed with Covid, the app notifies phones that were in close vicinity with the infected party. Countries such as the UK and Germany are in the process of rolling out national apps, while companies such as PwC are trialing enterprise versions that operate within the confines of a work facility.Most Canadians would sacrifice privacy to help stop Covid-19Though 55% of Canadians said that a contact-tracing app should be voluntary, 57% admitted that it would lack efficacy unless it were mandatory.

“It’s clear that Canadians understand that contact-tracing apps are effective if participation is high, but the design of such apps must limit threats to privacy as most people aren’t comfortable letting government have free rein to track their phones,” said Sylvia Kingsmill, partner and national digital privacy leader for KPMG. “To make this work, governments will need to be completely transparent on how data will be collected, stored, erased, and managed – it’s about trust.”

Overall, 62% of Canadians said they were in favour of letting the government use location tracking to send phone alerts to people who had come in contact with a Covid-19 infected person. A larger 82% said they would support an app that shows aggregate community “hot spots” for Covid-19 to allow people to make their own risk judgments.

Canadians echoed the sentiments of Prime Minister Trudeau, who is planning to extend the current travel ban with the US. Eighty-five percent of survey respondents said that cross-border, non-essential travel should not resume until the end of the pandemic. The fractured and ineffective response to the crisis in the US would potentially undo Canada’s flattening efforts, if borders were to reopen too quickly.

An average of 83% of Canadians said they would get a Covid-19 vaccine when available, with a high of 87% in Atlantic Canada and a low of 78% in Alberta.