Collecting behavioral data with ethics

Market researchers are constantly looking for new ways to understand consumer behavior. One of the latest is collecting behavioral data of consumers through passive metering technologies.

The information obtained by this method reflects people's actual behavior, and does not rely on their memory. The data collected is highly valuable and can lead to a better decision making for managers and policy-makers.

However, we need to consider that with the ability to capture the full digital footprint of consumers (e.g. the sites they visit, the movies they watch), there might be some data which they could perceive as too personal.

Our responsibility as market research professionals when gathering this type of data is to always act within accordance of market research guidelines and privacy regulations. This has been the promise of our industry to society for decades.

So, if you are planning to collect and use behavioral data, we strongly recommend you:

  • Be transparent with your participants: there is no better compliance than having their free, informed and explicit consent to handle their personal information.

  • Be clear on your purpose and be specific on how and for what you are planning to use their data.

  • Publish your privacy policy and make it easily available for the user. The privacy policy represents the cornerstone of an effective data management programme. It describes the key principles expected by consumers. So, ensure that your privacy policy is comprehensive, clear, usable and readable to any user.

  • Empower your users by giving them powerful mechanisms to exercise their right to data protection. For example, give them the possibility of pausing the tracker at any time, or provide them with a tool to list the specific sites where they want to browse privately.

And, in case of doubt, a golden rule in market research is “do not do to participants what you would not want done to yourself”.

Written by Oriol Llauradó

Degree in Sociology and Political Science. Market research professional, joined the Netquest team in 2003. Oriol is Chief Privacy Officer for both Wakoopa and Netquest.

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