Apple-Google contact-tracing app, due Friday, faces resistance in U.S.

Poll shows nearly 6 out of 10 Americans either don’t have a smartphone or don’t trust the tech giants behind the app.

From “Most Americans are not willing or able to use an app tracking coronavirus infections. That’s a problem for Big Tech’s plan to slow the pandemic” in Wednesday’s Washington Post:

The effort faces several major barriers, including that approximately 1 in 6 Americans do not have smartphones, which would be necessary for running any apps produced by the initiative. Rates of smartphone ownership are much lower among seniors, who are particularly vulnerable to the ravages of covid-19, with just over half of those aged 65 or older saying that they have a smartphone (53 percent). Rates are even lower for those 75 and older, according to the Post-U. Md. poll.

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.

apple google covid resistance

My take: “Resistance is higher among Republicans.” No comment.


  1. David Emery said:
    “My take: “Resistance is higher among Republicans.” No comment.” That’s a cheap political shot, I think, and not particularly worthy here.

    Should we have a characterization of ‘trust’ in both tech and government based on political persuasion? Is that a discussion we want to have?

    April 29, 2020
  2. John Konopka said:
    Mildly interesting survey. We are divided on all sorts of things. This is one of those “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” things. If half of us use this kind of app, an optimistic number, it could be helpful for those doing tracing. It would be almost impossible for this app to be a stand alone solution.

    In California we assembling a large number of people to be trained to do tracing. If this makes their job 20% easier then hooray!

    April 29, 2020
  3. John Butt said:
    I’m guessing the “app” may be just a reporting app, ie it reports to users if you have had contact and you report to it if you have Covid. But under the hood and not dependent on the app being live is a tool to provide Bluetooth interactions that feeds a database to provide the matches. Requiring a live app to enable Bluetooth monitoring would fail, many people will turn it off by accident let alone deliberately.

    That enables very high levels of security and also performance.

    Ie you only need to get the app for your own safety, or to assist others after you are infected, the data will be there anyway.

    Have I got it right?

    April 29, 2020
  4. Fred Stein said:

    Forget the politics. Basic statistics. Even if 50% intend to use it, less will actually install it. That means low sensitivity to point of useless Plus there are accuracy challenges with location data at 6 feet. That creates hugely annoying false positives.

    April 30, 2020
    • Jerry Doyle said:
      @Fred Stein: I heard Bill Gates make an interesting statement yesterday on this contact tracing app. The app does not take in consideration that an infected person with the virus leaves a droplet on a table. The person exits. 15 minutes later another non-infected person arrives at the table and takes a seat and touches a “droplet” deposited on the table, subsequently becomes infected.

      April 30, 2020
  5. Steven Philips said:
    The question seems rather pointless at this point. It’s kind of like “would you buy, IF…” Well, it depends on the actual product! Considering all the issues with “tracking” and governments (!) coming up with their own apps. And what if the question was “would you use a tracking app from Google?” or “Would you use a tracking app from Apple?” or X-Government?
    Let’s get it out there and LOOK at IT first!
    And Joe, I always hated your dad’s quote! There are liars, damn liars, and damn liars who mis-use statistics. Statistics are just math.

    April 30, 2020
  6. Brian Loftus said:
    I think google has given ample reasons to not trust them regarding privacy. Most tech publications state Apple is just the same as Google. I trust Apple and will join.
    I can certainly see that Republicans value privacy more than Democrats.

    April 30, 2020

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