Should the government track cellphones to help curb COVID-19 spread? Americans divided

Jackie Drees -

Americans are divided on whether the government should use smartphone data to track the spread of COVID-19, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Pew surveyed U.S. adults between April 7-12 about smartphone data tracking during the pandemic and the government's role. Here's what people said about the government action:

1. Tracking data of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to understand how the virus may be spreading:

  • Very acceptable: 24 percent.
  • Somewhat acceptable: 28 percent.
  • Somewhat unacceptable: 15 percent.
  • Very unacceptable: 33 percent.

2. Tracking data of people who may have had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19:

  • Very acceptable: 19 percent.
  • Somewhat acceptable: 26 percent.
  • Somewhat unacceptable: 18 percent.
  • Very unacceptable: 37 percent.

When it comes to social distancing, survey participants were more inclined to oppose the government tracking people's smartphones. When asked if it is acceptable for the government to tap into this data to check if social distancing limits are being followed, 63 percent of respondents said it is somewhat or very unacceptable, while the remaining 37 percent said it is somewhat or very acceptable.

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