Individuals' willingness to provide geospatial global positioning system (GPS) data from their smartphone during the COVID-19 pandemic

Humanit Soc Sci Commun. 2022;9(1):336. doi: 10.1057/s41599-022-01338-7. Epub 2022 Sep 26.


This study aims to evaluate people's willingness to provide their geospatial global positioning system (GPS) data from their smartphones during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the self-determination theory, the addition of monetary incentives to encourage data provision may have an adverse effect on spontaneous donation. Therefore, we tested if a crowding-out effect exists between financial and altruistic motivations. Participants were randomized to different frames of motivational messages regarding the provision of their GPS data based on (1) self-interest, (2) pro-social benefit, and (3) monetary compensation. We also sought to examine the use of a negative versus positive valence in the framing of the different armed messages. 1055 participants were recruited from 41 countries with a mean age of 34 years on Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), an online crowdsourcing platform. Participants living in India or in Brazil were more willing to provide their GPS data compared to those living in the United States. No significant differences were seen between positive and negative valence framing messages. Monetary incentives of $5 significantly increased participants' willingness to provide GPS data. Half of the participants in the self-interest and pro-social arms agreed to provide their GPS data and almost two-thirds of participants were willing to provide their data in exchange for $5. If participants refused the first framing proposal, they were followed up with a "Vickrey auction" (a sealed-bid second-priced auction, SPSBA). An average of $17 bid was accepted in the self-interest condition to provide their GPS data, and the average "bid" of $21 was for the pro-social benefit experimental condition. These results revealed that a crowding-out effect between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations did not take place in our sample of internet users. Framing and incentivization can be used in combination to influence the acquisition of private GPS smartphone data. Financial incentives can increase data provision to a greater degree with no losses on these intrinsic motivations, to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: Economics; Science, technology and society; Sociology.