The market and social research sector has published updated guidance for researchers, providing advice in addressing legal, ethical, methodological and practical considerations in the use of existing and new technologies for online research, a growing global market worth nearly $10bn.
Best practice guidance
This updated Guideline for Online Research, published by ESOMAR (the World Association for Social, Opinion and Market Research) and GRBN (the Global Research Business Network) provides best practice based guidance to help ensure that researchers who execute research online remain sensitive to consumer concerns about privacy and avoid activities and technology practices that risk undermining public confidence in market research.
Clarification of researcher’s responsibilities
The rapid growth of online research has seen continual developments in technology and in the types and variety of digital data that can be collected. Researchers have always been called upon to ensure that participants are not harmed or adversely affected by participating in a research project. This Guideline clarifies researchers’ responsibilities when using new and possibly less obvious ways of collecting data.
Impact of new technologies
New technologies now make it possible to collect a broad range of personal data without direct interaction with the individuals whose data are collected. Examples of such personal data include web browsing data, loyalty card and store scanner data, geo-location data from mobile devices as well as social media data. The Guideline addresses the requirement for explicit consent in situations where researchers collect personal data from participants in research panels and mobile applications. This is particularly important for mobile apps utilising geo-location, passive listening, and/or metering. The Guideline also specifies requirements for researchers to protect the privacy and security of any personal data collected.
The need for transparency
Andrew Cannon, Executive Director of the Global Research Business Network, said: “The GRBN global survey into Trust and Personal Data informed us that, across the globe, the vast majority of people are concerned about the protection and appropriate use of their personal data, with many considering their digital data to be sensitive. In this environment, it is paramount that the research industry is transparent in its dealings with the general public and fosters a trust-based relationship: These guidelines provide invaluable guidance to any researchers who conduct online research.”
A must READ
In addition to addressing technology and related personal data issues, the Guideline addresses researcher relationships and responsibilities to clients and the general public as well as best practices for methodological quality, including data collection management and transparency. The Guideline is recommended reading for all stakeholders in the research process, from research and survey designers to data users.
Watch this space
Finn Raben, Director General of ESOMAR, adds: “Concerns about online privacy and the collection and use of personal data among both consumers and regulators have never been greater. The long-term viability of the research industry depends on how effectively we express our traditional values of respect for individuals and scientific integrity in new and emerging online research methods. In this Guideline, ESOMAR and GRBN have tried to do exactly that, although we also recognise that this is not likely to be the last you will hear from us on this important topic.”