Why are people turning off contact tracing in the NHS Covid-19 app?

“But why would anyone turn off contact tracing if they already had the NHS Covid-19 App?” 🤔

I’m going to put forward a few hypotheses that I would go down if I was trying to research this behaviour.

For starters: a lot of workplaces ask employees to turn off contact tracing. Especially in settings such as retail, hospitality, and the NHS.

Hypothesis #1: There are people who turned off the contact tracing features because of their workplace rules, and then forgot to turn it back on.

Never underestimate the power of asking users to change settings in an app back and forth. There steep cliffs where usage falls off whenever this happens.

Hypothesis #2: is people who turned off the contact tracing feature because they didn’t want to be pinged.

To which I’d say: isn’t it *more* likely that they would just delete the app, rather than fumbling around with settings? 🧐

Hypothesis #3: It’s people who did keep the app, but turned it on/off because they were doing a “high risk” (in their mind) activity that could get them pinged. Going to a pub, taking public transport, etc.

This obviously defeats the purpose…but I wouldn’t be too surprised since a lot of people seem to think the quarantine suggested by app is legally mandatory. (It isn’t.)

Quarantine is mandatory and punishable if violated only when asked by the human NHS Test & Trace team.

The NHS Covid-19 app-suggested quarantine a recommendation. Violating it cannot legally be prosecuted.

But if there’s a persistent misconception that the app’s quarantine is legally binding, it might drive some people to turn it off if they are exposed to crowds.

The @NHSX team likely does know the answers:

– How many people turn it on and off – and after what gap? A few hours could indicate it’s due to turning it off for public transport, parties, pubs etc. 8-12 hours could suggest it’s related to work days.

– How many app users turned off contact tracing, and never came back – but still have the app installed*?
(* Have tracing turned off but opened the app again. Reopening the app is necessary for the analytics to be collected again. This is different than deleting/abandoning app.)

If the NHS has usage data on how many people toggled a feature on or off, it also very likely has data on how how many “active” users the app still has and be able to estimate how many people uninstalled it during the “pingdemic”, too.

Of course, the quantitative data will only tell part of the story – which is qualitative research surveys, focus groups etc come in.

With a population of users as large as the @NHSCOVID19app has, it’s very likely to be mix off all 3 (and more!) reasons in play.

Originally tweeted by Ankur Banerjee (@ankurb) on 10 August 2021.

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