Finn Raben: Privacy and Ethics Panel #MRIA


Welcome to the virtual MRIA 2011 annual conference! This post reflects my personal musings and interpretations of this presentation. It was written during the presentation and posted minutes afterward. Any inaccuracies and silliness are my own.


Plenary Panel: Hot issues – privacy and ethics in the age of social media and digital everything

With David Stark (GfK), Brian Bowman (MRIA legal counsel) and Patrick Glaser (MRA). Moderated by Finn Raben, Director General: Esomar

  • This was a GREAT session. Do read carefully and follow up with the panel yourself.
  • Finn – The game is now changing and so are the rules. He introduced the superstars who will put the sex back into research.
  • David – Social media listening and webscraping. Two main legal considerations – privacy and intellectual property. Canada must consider Canada’s PIPEDA act. Privacy Commissioner questions the view that information that is ‘out there’ is available for any kind of use. Does not mean it can be used for any purpose.
  • What is public information? PIPIDA says public information is very narrow, contact information appearing in telephone books, business directories, magazines or books where individuals has provided the info. Is social media a publication? Letter of law says open web without notice or consent is unlawful. Perhaps PIPEDA just needs to be brought up to date and modernized. Need a broader definition of public information. We need the Kerry-McCain view of web data mining – widely, publicly available information where there is no access restrictions. Creating a false ID to login for research purposes is still inappropriate and wrong. Encourage privacy by design – screen out usernames.
  • Brian – Where is the privacy line? Walking on the sidewalk? Walking on your lawn? Standing in your living room window where people can see you? Should you have privacy walking into a medical clinic? Walking into an adult entertainment store? (Finn – reminds us about putting the sex back into research.)
  • Patrick – Behavioral tracking. Watching where a person clicks as they go from website to unrelated website.  What if people searching for cancer information are charged higher insurance rates? Privacy advocates know this issue is here to stay.  Market researchers have an extremely minimal voice related to tracking. Consumers and corporation and business groups have many more voices. (mmmm discussions of cookies) Cookies were created for privacy, passwords, permissions so they are a good thing. But we need a window of acceptance for this newer behaviour. Public is becoming more aware of trade-offs.  You can download tracking prevention software but this may backfire when websites refuse free use of their site unless you permit tracking.
  • Brian – Device IDs. Is this “personal information?”  He is concerned that market researchers are starting to sound like lawyers. :)  IP addresses have been deemed personally identifiable and therefore has obligations.
  • David – Researchers must explain and let survey panel members know they use digital fingerprinting. Some companies don’t want to say so that fraudsters can’t defeat the technology. It needn’t be lots of detail though. Privacy polices need to be simple.
  • Brian – Do you REALLY need to collect all of that data? Will you use all of it to create a unique machine ID? Limit use of data to what you told the person you were going to use it for. Is use of this technology reasonable? Reasonable depends on the circumstances and differs by person and may not work in current framework.
  • David – He paid for the use of the Dilbert cartoons. (That’s why I admire David.)  Do panel members need meta data in photos, including the lat and long? Google and Apple were under fire for sharing information without permission, let’s not do the same.  MAKE YOUR POLICIES SIMPLE particularly when people try to read it on their phone. Address the fees for participating in SMS research up front.
  • Finn – 4.8 billion people have a mobile phone. 1.8 billion have internet.15% of US males admitted to interrupting sex to answer a mobile phone. (More sex talk from Finn, he’s on a role).
  • Brian – 1) privacy advocates, don’t do surveys, don’t answer phone, hostile 2) privacy pragmatists, generally participate, 3) couldn’t’ care less, take pictures with geoloc that say I’m not home, rob me now.  Most people are pragmatists. Teenagers expect companies to comply with legislation more than ever before. Head in the sand is at your own peril, it will affect their businesses.
  • Patrick – Privacy laws develop out of necessity. Cheapness of storage, processing power, speed of transmission, these three things have changed tremendously in recent years.  Foundation is notice and choice. Offer transparency or you will be steamrolled.
  • David – Keep research and marketing separate. Tweeting and engaging is small scale social media research.
  • Brian – Finishes up with a sex comment – Airport security can take naked pictures of us but they have created privacy around the process. It’s invasive but they created privacy by design.
  • Finn – ESOMAR guidelines will be out in a couple weeks. This is not a forecast of doom and gloom. We don’t always know where the line is. We try to say “it wasn’t me” but one person impacts the entire industry. There is a panel in India where people must pay to join?!?!?! Some people are thinking the research industry is a scam because of that. Always ask questions.

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