This rapid research brief analyses whether COVID-19 had an impact on public sentiment in relation to privacy and the widespread use of data and technology by government in responding to the public health crisis, be it through tracing, compliance or enforcement.
- During the first few months of the pandemic, Australians’ trust in federal and state and territory governments to collect and use their personal data increased. However, the majority of Australians are still concerned about the security of their personal information.
- Increase in trust is strongly related to confidence in Australian governments’ management of the public health response.
- Around half of Australians surveyed agree that some privacy concessions must be made to combat COVID-19, as long as the changes are not permanent.
- The change in public sentiment is not uniform. Women, people aged over 45 years, and those who live in relatively advantaged areas show the greatest increase in trust in governments and other organisations to maintain data privacy. Marginalised groups and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are less likely to trust government to do so.
- The purpose, consent and opt-in arrangements around data and technology remain important factors in public sentiment towards government collection and use of data.
- The extent to which governments protect personal data – including data collected by third parties – and are transparent about their use and value during the pandemic, will shape Australian attitudes going forward.