American’s Perceptions of Privacy and Surveillance in the Covid-19 Pandemic

Just Tech Covid-19 Rapid-Response Grant – Fall 2020

Abstract

Governments around the world have introduced technology to monitor and curb the spread of Covid-19. This project seeks to understand Americans’ attitudes toward such public health surveillance measures. We propose to extend our existing project that used online surveys to investigate support for specific digital surveillance policies, particularly exposure notification apps. Our research has found that the American public is largely unsupportive of digital surveillance measures, even as they are tepid about expanding traditional contact tracing. Grant funding will be used to conduct a three-wave panel survey that builds upon our existing research. We plan to supplement our survey research by conducting in-depth interviews with contact tracers, who can provide insights into the nature of public concerns regarding both digital and non-digital surveillance. We also plan to interview users of an exposure notification app that we have been recruited to pilot test and to use findings from these interviews to provide feedback on app design and messaging.

Research Team

Principal Investigators

Baobao Zhang

Postdoctoral Fellow, Cornell Society of Fellows

  • Bio ▾

    I am a Klarman Postdoctoral Fellow in the Cornell Society of Fellows. At Cornell, I am based in the Department of Government; I have a secondary affiliation with the Department of Information Science. In Fall 2021, I will start as an assistant professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. I am also a research affiliate with the Centre for the Governance of AI at the University of Oxford.

    My current research focuses on trust in digital technology and the governance of artificial intelligence (AI). I study (1) public and elite opinion toward AI, (2) how the American welfare state could adapt to the increasing automation of labor, and (3) attitudes toward Covid-19 surveillance technology. My previous research covered a wide range of topics, including the politics of the US welfare state, attitudes toward climate change, and survey methodology.

    I graduated with a PhD in political science (2020) and an MA in statistics (2015) from Yale University. In 2019–2020, I worked as a postdoctoral fellow in MIT’s Political Science Department and a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

Sarah Kreps

Professor, Cornell University

  • Bio ▾

    I am the John L. Wetherill Professor in the Department of Government, adjunct professor of law, and Milstein Faculty Fellow in Technology and Humanity at Cornell University. I am also a non-resident senior fellow in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution.

    My research focuses on the intersection of technology, politics, and international relations, the subject of five books, including, most recently, Social Media and International Relations (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

    I have a BA from Harvard University, MSc from Oxford University, and PhD from Georgetown University. Between 1999–2003, I served on active duty in the United States Air Force.

Nina McMurry

PhD Candidate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Bio ▾

    I am a postdoctoral research fellow in the Institutions and Political Inequality Unit at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center and a research affiliate at MIT GOV/LAB. I received my PhD in political science from MIT in September 2020.

    My research focuses on political representation, government accountability, and state-society relations in post-colonial democracies. Current areas of research include the political effects of collective recognition and land rights, civic education, colonial legacies, and the politics of state surveillance. To date, I have conducted research in the Philippines, South Africa, Guatemala, South Sudan, and the United States.

Laurin Weissinger

Cyber Security Fellow and Lecturer, Yale Law School

  • Bio ▾

    Laurin B. Weissinger is a lecturer at the Fletcher School, Tufts University, and a researcher with the Computer Science Department, Tufts University. He also serves as the Cybersecurity Fellow at Yale Law School and is a visiting fellow with the Information Society Project at Yale Law School.

    Laurin studies and teaches cybersecurity from a holistic socio-technological perspective and utilizes multidisciplinary methods to explore the technical, social, and political aspects of cybersecurity in practice, as well as global cyber governance. Focussing on network analysis methodologies, he currently serves as a guest editor for a special issue on data collection for the Social Networks Journal.

    Laurin received his DPhil (PhD) from the University of Oxford, where he conducted an in-depth study of trust assurance in cybersecurity. Additionally, Laurin holds an MSc from Oxford and an MPhil from the University of Cambridge. Laurin is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

Back to top