In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities are running test-trace-isolate programs to safely reopen campuses. Individuals’ health gets documented with temperature checks, surveys about recent contacts, and COVID-19 tests. This requires people to feel safe sharing information about themselves. However, people may not feel safe sharing their information in workplaces and educational settings. Individuals occupying different social roles—such as temporary faculty, graduate research assistants, undergraduate students, and staff—are likely to have different sensitivities, needs, healthcare access, use of social services, and job security. Who will their information be shared with? How long will it be kept? How is this communicated? How these concerns are addressed will shape how people are willing to participate in health monitoring, which has implications for the success and safety of reopening programs, and further, for American values of freedom and privacy. This project examines how individuals occupying different social roles experience their privacy and interact with health monitoring systems. Researchers will produce recommendations for technology and program design strategies that take into consideration heterogeneous needs, vulnerabilities, and privacy expectations. The recommendations will be broadly disseminated through a toolkit and workshops.

This project investigates how to meet people’s varied privacy needs—so they will feel safe participating in test-trace-isolate programs—by addressing two key research questions: (1) What different social roles impact privacy experiences? (2) What do differences in privacy experiences indicate about the design requirements (e.g. technology, interaction, and communication) of programs and systems? The project will contribute an alternative to universalizing analyses of privacy. Instead, it will develop a role-differentiated framework for understanding privacy needs and values, affected by people’s roles at home, in the workplace, and in society. The research questions will be investigated through a qualitative research methodology —involving workshops and interviews with diverse campus stakeholders—at a single, large college campus: the University of California, San Diego. UCSD’s health monitoring program has already brought many students and workers back to campus. It affects how people get health care, work, and study. Results of this research will include a new theory of privacy that respects people’s needs according to social roles.

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.

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University of California San Diego
La Jolla
United States
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