Canadian Manufacturing

Most Canadians would sacrifice privacy to help stop COVID-19: KPMG

They would download a contact-tracing app, but want it to be optional

May 14, 2020  by CM Staff

TORONTO — Nearly all Canadians (92%) feel digital contact-tracing apps must balance privacy concerns with public safety, but most (60%) would sacrifice their privacy if it helped stop COVID-19, finds research commissioned by KPMG in Canada.

The survey reveals Canadians are divided over whether a tracing app should be made mandatory by government. Less than half (45%) say government should require individual Canadians to use their smartphones to anonymously share their COVID-19 status as part of contact tracing. Quebec residents (51%) were most likely to support mandatory use.

Most Canadians (55%) say digital contact tracing should be voluntary, citing privacy concerns and potential abuse of civil liberties, with two thirds saying they would not download such an app, calling it still “too invasive.” But 57% don’t believe it would be effective unless it’s mandatory.

“Our poll findings show that while Canadians care deeply about their privacy and civil liberties, public health and safety trumps privacy in a national emergency,” says Lydia Lee, partner and national digital health leader at KPMG. “Ideally, contact tracing should allow for both privacy by design and public health and safety.”

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Overall, 62% of respondents are in favour of letting the government use location tracking to send phone alerts to people who have come into contact with a person infected by COVID-19, and 82% would support an app run by the health system that shows aggregate community “hot spots” for COVID-19 that would allow individuals to make their own decisions about their health.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) say any contact-tracing program needs to be administered by an independent body from the provincial or federal government.

KPMG used Methodify, a research automation platform, to survey 2,000 Canadians between May 7 and 12, 2020.