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Navigating the Role of MR as Data Privacy Concerns Increase

Data privacy is a growing concern in the market research industry. The effects can have massive impacts on feasibility, costs, and timelines for projects. Here are 7 tips market researchers can use to address increased privacy concerns.

According to a 2019 global survey about data privacy by McAfee, 43% of respondents felt they lack control over their personal information and 33% were unsure how to control companies that collect their personal information. Results also showed 61% of respondents were more concerned about data privacy than they were 5 years ago. While it seems a new data breach is happening weekly in the news, more attention is being paid to privacy and use of personal data.

For an industry built on data, how does this impact our day-to-day market research?

Day-to-Day Research

An increase in privacy concerns could mean more apprehensive respondents to market research outreach. This is a concern for many market research companies since methodologies using online panels are an important method to reach participants. It impacts the ability to collect data for other methodologies such as focus group recruiting and customer surveys.

The market research industry is built on the principle of trust between the survey administrators and survey respondents. Knowing how to practice ethical market research is crucial. The survey respondent offers personal information about their opinions and habits to help improve a product or service for a brand. The survey administrator believes the information submitted to be true and typically provides the survey respondent an incentive or reward. Unless explicitly stated, the data for the survey is not supposed to extend beyond this exchange. No gray area. No misuse.

Data privacy is a growing concern in the industry because if respondents feel as though they cannot trust the survey administrator with their personal information, fewer participants will respond to a study. This has massive impacts on feasibility, costs, and timelines for projects.

7 Tips to Address Privacy Concerns

Here are 7 tips market researchers can use to address increased privacy concerns:

  1. Find the right data storage platform
  2. Tell market research participants how personally identifiable information (PII) will be used
  3. Tell market research participants the purpose of the study
  4. Include a privacy statement
  5. Be careful with how data is shared
  6. Decide who has access to data
  7. Delete unnecessary data

Tip #1: Find the right data storage platform

There are plenty of resources available to make the process of collecting and storing information more efficient. Market research companies can find a tool that is best suited for their needs, such as needing a basic or more advanced data storage platform.

When deciding which data storage platform to use, consider the needs of your organization, the team(s) working on the project, and the end-client. Several industries require market research vendors to adhere to specific policies. This means the market research company may opt for a more advanced data storage platform.

Examples of basic data storage platforms include GSuite and Microsoft 365. There may also be add-ons for these basic options to make its data storage services more advanced.

Examples of more advanced data storage options include SharePoint and Box. Platforms like this offer advanced services like threat detection, data residency, and more.

Tip #2: Tell market research participants how PII will be used

When collecting personally identifiable information, or PII, be sure to tell participants exactly how it is going to be used. This is something market researchers deal with every day. Examples of PII include first name, last name, email address, phone number, etc.

Telling market research participants how their data will be used may include adding a note above questions that ask this information. For example, “The contact information you provide will only be used for [insert research project details].”

Tip #3: Tell market research participants the purpose of the study

Market research participants should also be told how the data from the research will be used, or the purpose of the study. This information could be featured in the survey email invite or intro survey page.

An example of this could be, “[Example Company 1] has partnered with [Example Company 2] to conduct an important customer survey. Your feedback will provide relevant insights to help us improve service, shape future software releases, and better understand your needs. The feedback will be summarized and built into a 2020 strategic plan.”

Here are more tips to send a survey invite by email.

Tip #4: Include a privacy statement

All companies that collect or store data should have an easily accessible privacy policy. A privacy policy should explain the purpose of collecting and/or storing data and how the data will be used. It should also explain how participants can opt-out of their data being stored.

Those who do business in Europe likely know about the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Businesses have even seen these regulations pop up in the United States, which is a trend that will likely continue. Companies that do business in Europe and do not follow GDPR rules are subject to high fines. To write a privacy policy that adheres to GDPR guidelines it must be concise, transparent, intelligible, easily accessible, written in clear/plain language, delivered in a timely manner, and provided free of charge.

Remember, it is important to give users the option to review and understand how their data is being used. It can also be helpful if any issues with privacy arise.

Tip #5: Be careful with how data is shared

Consider how PII is shared within a market research company as well as between the company and the end-client. PII should not be shared over unprotected written communication such as email or text.

Use encrypted documents, emails, or storage platforms to share messages rather than sharing PII over unprotected written communication. This extra step is a quick and easy way to limit data breaches and protect survey respondents.

Tip #6: Decide who has access to data

Every employee in a market research firm should not have access to the files of every project. When it comes to protecting the privacy of survey respondents, it is best to limit the number of people who have access.

This includes limiting access to project folders and limiting access to files within the project folder. Many data storage platforms give admins the ability to dictate who has the ability to access, view, edit, and share files with others.

Multiple levels of access protect organizations from giving away the farm if any single user’s account was compromised.

Tip #7: Delete unnecessary data

Lastly, set a calendar reminder to delete unnecessary files with PII saved in the data storage platform. This may be something market research companies do every 30, 60, or 90 days.

For example, after a customer survey project is complete, there is no need to keep a customer database provided by the end-client. Regularly check to ensure files with PII are removed to minimize the risk of a data breach.

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Emily Taylor

Emily Taylor

Senior Research Analyst, Drive Research