Public Opinion Shifts on Big Tech and Privacy

Recent polling finds the COVID-19 pandemic has softened the backlash against big tech firms. A majority of Americans now support tech firms being involved in tracing COVID-19, for example. 

The recent round of polling is a turnaround from 2019. In 2015, 71 percent of Americans said tech companies had a positive impact on the United States, with that number falling to only 50 percent by 2019, according to the Pew Research Center. Over those same years, negative views of tech went from the high teens to 33 percent. 

But during the pandemic tech companies are stepping into a new field — public health.  Google and Apple have announced an initiative to support contact tracing through Bluetooth technology, which tracks when people come in contact with an infected person. MIT researchers have developed an app to serve a similar purpose, and other tech companies are lending their support to help combat COVID-19 in a variety of ways. 

Taken together, the results from a number of different polls raise questions about a continued desire for products and services that focus on privacy and security, which were the beneficiaries of an estimated $124 billion in spending on this industry in 2019, according to Gartner estimates. 

A Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll covering late April found 68 percent of Americans would now share their COVID-19 test results with officials using an app, though that dropped to 45 percent if the app tracks with whom they come into contact and sends them alerts if one of those people tests positive for coronavirus. Such measures are currently on the table in the U.S. and Europe. 

See also: For Contact Tracing to Work, Americans Will Have to Trust Google and Apple

Even so, people have an improved view of tech companies generally during the pandemic. 

Thirty-eight percent of Americans say their view of the tech industry is more positive since the start of the outbreak, according to a Harris/Axios poll.  Forty percent said the tech industry…

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