More US consumers in 2020 are ready to hand over sensitive data like their social security numbers, financial and medical information, than in both the previous two years, according to the Advertising Research Foundation’s (ARF) third annual Privacy Study.

The greater willingness happened during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers found. Willingness is greater among those whose jobs have been hit by the effects of the pandemic, and far greater among those who know someone who has caught the virus.

Researchers also found that a majority of people were ready to share personal, health-related data if it was going to be used to fight the pandemic. For example, information about mask-wearing, while hotly debated in some parts of the US, is the piece of health information that Americans are most willing to share (83%).

On the other hand, a quarter of those surveyed said they would be unwilling to share information about being exposed to someone with the virus, despite contact tracing being seen as a key weapon in containing the spread of the virus. And 47% of people said they strongly disapproved of allowing government agencies to gather data from phones to help protect public health, even if it was only on a temporary basis.

The ARF carried out its third annual Privacy Study by surveying 1,200 American consumers between April 24 and 27, 2020.

Other findings from the report include:

The use of PCs has rebounded after a decline last year. The assumption is that people have spent more time at home during lockdowns and throughout the pandemic. The use of mobile web and mobile apps was also up.

Understanding of privacy policy terminology continues to rise and tends to be greater among people in higher income brackets, people in their late 30s and early 40s, and those living in the Northeast or West. In particular, those who understood the term “third-party data” has increased by 10 percentage points over the past year.

The most trusted sources of information about the coronavirus were doctors (76%), scientists and technical experts (68%), followed by people like themselves (59%). Trust in scientists and technical experts grew with increasing education, and the more serious a threat people regard COVID-19, the more they trust the federal government.

Sourced from ARF: additional content by WARC staff