Keep the N.S.A Out of Our Surveys
As a citizen and voter, I am appalled to learn that our government routinely spies on the phone and digital communications of ordinary people and businesses and now harasses the journalists who are bringing it to our attention.
And as a business owner in the market research industry, I am deeply concerned that government spying will undermine the goodwill and trust we have built up with research subjects and survey respondents over the past few decades. I was doubly concerned this week when I reviewed a new consumer website from one of the largest data brokers that (partially) discloses what they know about you and from what sources they get it. Over and over, this website notes that data is being sourced from surveys.
Those are bogus surveys. They pretend to be about research, when in fact they are designed to collect all kinds of information about you and deposit it into databases for marketing, sales, and, worse. Unfortunately even some real research surveys, like those fielded by Google Surveys, are likely falling prey. Does Google adhere to CASRO or AAPOR codes of ethical research conduct? Not from what I can tell. Chances are your answers flow right into a database that is used to target you.
This is terrible for our industry, and it is worth reaffirming the ethical standards for research put out by the Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO) and the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR):
Since individuals who are interviewed are the lifeblood of the Survey Research Industry, it is essential that Survey Research Organizations be responsible for protecting from disclosure to third parties–including Clients and members of the Public–the identity of individual Respondents as well as Respondent-identifiable information, unless the Respondent expressly requests or permits such disclosure. (CASRO — emphasis added)
Unless the respondent explicitly waives confidentiality for specified uses, we shall hold as privileged and confidential all information that could be used, alone or in combination with other reasonably available information, to identify a respondent with his or her responses. We also shall not disclose or use the names of respondents or any other personally-identifying information for non-research purposes unless the respondents grant us permission to do so. (AAPOR)
Our commitment has always been to collect information only for the purposes of research, and to protect the confidentiality and anonymity of those who provide us with data. That should be the commitment of all research firms, absolutely. Versta Research vigorously adheres to CASRO and AAPOR principles on privacy, and we hope that you—our colleagues in the industry, our clients and our vendors—will join us in doing so.