Award Abstract #2039172

RAPID: SaTC: Information Privacy Tensions and Decisions in Families during COVID-19.

See grant description on NSF site

Program Manager:

Sara Kiesler

Active Dates:

Awarded Amount:



France Belanger

Robert E Crossler

Awardee Organization:

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Funder Divisions:

Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE)


COVID-19 has thrown the world into a global health crisis and the largest economic downturn since the great depression. A key factor that allows economies to open is a contact tracing program consisting of apps on smartphones that know who people have been in contact with and can quickly notify those who have been near someone with a positive COVID-19 result. For contact tracing to work, a significant portion of the community must use the apps, raising privacy concerns. Tensions can arise in families as each member must decide whether to allow contact tracing on their smartphone. Any individual decision can affect the entire household. For example, if families go to dinner together and one member has contact tracing turned on, the entire family is functionally traced, leading to family disagreements about the acceptance of contact tracing. The objective of this research is to understand how these within-family tensions on privacy affect contact tracing choices and suggest solutions.This research seeks to develop a family-level privacy process model that explains the series of activities and events that lead to a familial decision about privacy settings and use of contact tracing. The research uses a longitudinal qualitative and quantitative survey of parent-teen dyads at two points in time in different regions with both mandatory and volitional use of contact tracing. The research examines how decisions regarding usage of contact tracing technologies are negotiated within households and how to foster contact tracing acceptance within families. By identifying the processes and barriers to contact tracing acceptance, this research facilitates the domino effect of family-level adoption. Because each familys identity extends beyond their household, this cascading effect can increase adoption to the households broader social networks. By understanding and reducing barriers to adoption within a family, we will be able to help obtain the critical mass of users necessary for successfully keeping COVID-19 infections at a manageable level.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Back to Top