From Shadow Profiles to Contact Tracing: Qualitative Research into Consent and Privacy
For many privacy scholars, consent is on life support, if not dead. In July 2020, we held six focus groups in Australia to test this claim by gauging attitudes to consent and privacy, with a spotlight on smartphones. These focus groups included discussion of four case studies: ‘shadow profiles’, eavesdropping by companies on smartphone users, non-consensual government surveillance of its citizens and contact tracing apps developed to combat COVID-19. Our participants expressed concerns about these practices and said they valued individual consent and saw it as a key element of privacy protection. However, they saw the limits of individual consent, saying that the law and the design of digital services also have key roles to play. Building on these findings, we argue for a blend of good law, good design and an appreciation that individual consent is still valued and must be fixed rather than discarded - ideally in ways that are also collective. In other words, consent is dead; long live consent.