Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

This paper explores ethical debates associated with the UK COVID-19 contact tracing app that occurred in the public news media and broader public policy, and in doing so, takes ethics debate as an object for sociological study. The research question was: how did UK national newspaper news articles and grey literature frame the ethical issues about the app, and how did stakeholders associated with the development and/or governance of the app reflect on this? We examined the predominance of different ethical issues in news articles and grey literature, and triangulated this using stakeholder interview data. Findings illustrate how news articles exceptionalised ethical debate around the app compared to the way they portrayed ethical issues relating to 'manual' contact tracing. They also narrowed the debate around specific privacy concerns. This was reflected in the grey literature, and interviewees perceived this to have emerged from a 'privacy lobby'. We discuss the findings, and argue that this limited public ethics narrative masked broader ethical issues.

Original publication




Journal article


Ethics Inf Technol

Publication Date





Advocacy, Bioethics, Contact tracing, Digital, Ethics, Privacy