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To App or Not to App? Understanding Public Resistance to COVID-19 Digital Contact Tracing and its Criminological Relevance

Abstract

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital contact tracing has been developed and promoted in many countries as a valuable tool to help the fight against the virus, allowing health authorities to react quickly and limit contagion. Very often, however, these tracing apps have faced public resistance, making their use relatively sparse and ineffective. Our study relies on an interdisciplinary approach that brings together criminological and computational expertise to consider the key social dynamics underlying people’s resistance to using the NHS contact-tracing app in England and Wales. The present study analyses a large Twitter dataset to investigate interactions between relevant user accounts and identify the main narrative frames (lack of trust and negative liberties) and mechanisms (polluted information, conspiratorial thinking and reactance) to explain resistance towards use of the NHS contact-tracing app. Our study builds on concepts of User eXperience (UX) and algorithm aversion and demonstrates the relevance of these elements to the key criminological problem of resistance to official technologies.

Published: 2021-11-08
Pages:28 to 45
Section: Articles
How to Cite
Lavorgna, A., Ugwudike, P., Carr, L., Sanchez Benitez, Y., & Rekha, G. S. (2021). To App or Not to App? Understanding Public Resistance to COVID-19 Digital Contact Tracing and its Criminological Relevance. Law, Technology and Humans, 3(2), 28-45. https://doi.org/10.5204/lthj.2012

Author Biographies

University of Southampton
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Dr Anita Lavorgna is Associate Professor of Criminology at the Department of Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology, University of Southampton. Anita has an international research track record on and expertise in interdisciplinary research drawing together criminology, socio-legal studies, and web science. She has worked extensively on cybercrime, serious and organised crime, and online social harms.

University of Southampton
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Dr Pamela Ugwudike is an Associate Professor of Criminology at the Department of Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology, University of Southampton and a Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, where she is undertaking research on the topic - “A Multidisciplinary Study of Predictive Artificial Intelligence Technologies in the Criminal Justice System”.

University of Southampton
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Professor Les Carr is Head of the Web and Internet Science Group and Co-Director of the Web Science Institute, University of Southampton.

University of Southampton
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Ms Yadira Sanchez Benitez is a PhD student at the Department of Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology and the Web Science Institute, University of Southampton. Her PhD project focuses on the digital divides as social harm and the active and participatory co-designing of digital tools with communities to support community-based algorithmic ecosystems.  

University of Southampton
United Kingdom United Kingdom

Ms Gopala Sasie Rekha is a PhD student at the Department of Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology, University of Southampton. Her research focuses on the reintegration processes for victims of human trafficking.

Open Access Journal
ISSN 2652-4074