Personal data, public policy: public view of the NHS COVID-19 app

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Wednesday 24 May 2023

01:00 PM - 02:00 PM


WM442, William Morris Building



Event details

This event will discuss public views of the NHS COVID-19 app, and what can be learned for future algorithmic behaviour modification technologies.


Data collection and analysis was heralded as one of the mechanisms available for managing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact tracing phone apps promised to provide early-warning for individuals who has been in contact with carriers of the virus, allowing them to isolate and reducing the chance of further transmission. The NHS COVID-19 app was one of these apps, available for users in the UK. Our study helps understand why individuals decided to use the app, or not; how they used it; and what factors affect the legitimacy of the app. Data for this project consisted of a series of group interviews with 32 users and 16 non-users of the NHS COVID-19 app.

This paper approaches the acceptability of the NHS COVID-19 Test & Trace app from the user/evaluator perspective, to address three research questions:

  1. Which dimensions of legitimacy are more important for users and non-users of the NHS COVID-19 app?
  2. Do users of the NHS COVID-19 app engage in workarounds or resistance behaviours?
  3. Is there a relationship between users’ reported need for legitimacy and user behaviour?

The presentation will address these questions, and will offer recommendations for similar technologies, beyond the health sector.


Carlos Ferreira is an Assistant Professor at CBiS. His interests include adoption and use of digital technology by organisations and individuals, with a view to understand complex phenomena and to distil them into nuanced strategic insights for organisations. His current focus is on the role of data as a mechanism for addressing interlocking social, environmental and health challenges.

Maureen Meadows is Professor of Strategic Management at CBiS. She is interested in the use of data, particularly customer/consumer data, by organisations of all kinds; the analysis of “big data” to support decision-making and enhance strategic conversations; and the impact of data sharing and privacy on customer behaviours and new business models.

Evronia Azer is Assistant Professor at CBiS. Her interests include information systems’ use and impact on different groups of users, and data privacy and governance.