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