Who Are Your Anonymous Respondents?
We feel strongly that people who give us information through surveys, in-depth interviews, or focus group deserve a promise that this will never happen to them:
One of the tenets of rigorous market research is that respondent confidentiality is key. Why? Primarily because it benefits you as a client. To make smart decisions, you need honest and thoughtful information from your customers and constituents. In most cases, your customers want to give us that information (because they want you to do a better job) as long as it won’t come back to haunt them.
Versta Research adheres to the ethics guidelines for privacy as outlined by CASRO, AAPOR, and other industry organizations to which we belong. The following two paragraphs nicely summarize our views and approach:
“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.” From the CASRO (Council of American Survey Research Organizations) Code of Standards and Ethics for Survey Research.
“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.” From the AAPOR (American Association for Public Opinion Research) Code of Professional Ethics & Practice.
If you need help deciding whether your research plan and approach appropriately protect the privacy of those participating in the research, we would be happy to advise. We have deep experience with these issues in market research, membership research, political polling, and academic IRB (Institutional Review Board) mandates governing research under federal funding.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.