Have You Forgotten about Survey Privacy? #MRX

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People share a lot of information when they answer surveys. They tell us the brand names of products they’re using, they tell us how often they use them, and who in their household uses them. Some people are even willing to share their most personal medical information including what diseases and ailments they have, how severe those ailments are, as well as some of the most embarrassing components of those ailments such as how often they experience heart burn, constipation, or diarrhea.

But sometimes, surveys go even further than this. Sometimes financial institutions want to know a client’s complete financial background. Which institutions do they use, for which products, and for how much money. In order to get the most accurate information, it makes perfect sense for the client, via the research company, to access a person’s online financial account directly. And of course, as long as the person has given the research company approval in the form of usernames and passwords, this is ok.

But is it? To begin with, this type of research probably violates the terms and service agreement of the financial institution which likely says that account information must not be shared. What would the financial institution think if they found out their research provider was encouraging survey takers to ignore the legally binding rules they agreed to when they signed up for the account? It’s a tricky situation for sure.

Beyond the legal issues though, does this level of detail go above and beyond the boundaries of research? Sure, precise detail such as what can be obtained via direct account access is highly desirable. We can do far better work when are incoming data is absolutely accurate. But it seems to me that we are taking precision a little too far, a little too close to personal intrusion, a little too close to putting people in vulnerable positions. I’m positive that’s not the job of market researchers.

But maybe I’m just oversensitive.


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