Security of Personal Information

Security of Personal Information

One thing that can deter people from taking online surveys is concern over giving out their personal information. With all the stories on the news about identity theft and online scams, it’s no wonder that people are hesitant to give out details about themselves.

Legitimate survey companies take many steps to ensure that personal information is always collected, stored and sent to market research companies in a safe, secure manner. There are many available methods they use to maintain the privacy of their panelists, and along with some simple steps that survey takers can use there should never be a cause for concern.

Why Companies Need Personal Details

Market research companies want feedback on their products and services from as wide of a demographic as possible. Many of them hire survey companies with global offices to ensure that people from around the world give their opinions. Some want to target a specific group, such as pet owners or those who travel frequently.

When someone signs up with a survey company, they are asked some standard questions, such as age, marital status and occupation. These are often the first “filter” that companies use when deciding who to send each survey to, so it’s important to fill out these profile questionnaires.

Panelists that stay with a survey company for a long time may start to receive profile survey invitations that don’t pay rewards (or sometimes offer a small one, such as an entry ticket into a draw). Some people may feel it’s not worth their time to fill out this type of survey for free. This is the wrong attitude however, since the more information provided to the survey company the more surveys the panelist is likely to receive. It also prevents irrelevant surveys being sent out that panelists wouldn’t even qualify for which would just be a waste of their time, for instance a survey about a new children’s cough medicine when a panelist doesn’t have any dependents.

Sending Information Securely

Survey companies often use a technology called SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), which means they take the information they collect from each completed survey and encrypt it. The market research company requesting that data has the “code” to unlock the encryption and can then read the results, ensuring that no third parties can steal this information while it is being sent.

Also, to maintain the privacy of your personal answers, all completed surveys are compiled in such a way that the results can’t be traced to individual panelists. All this information should be readily available in the Privacy Policy on any legitimate survey site. Extra information can often be found on their Terms and Conditions as well.

What Panelists can do to Stay Safe Online

It’s always a good idea for people to protect themselves online, no matter what websites they are visiting. For instance, if someone is using a public computer to answer a survey, they would want to make sure that the person next to them wasn’t watching them input personal information, and they should check with the owner of the computer that the browser cache will be cleared when they have finished their session.

When answering surveys at home, start by researching the company that is offering online surveys. Are they reputable? Do they have a privacy policy? If a friend sent a referral because they are happy with their success on the site then that is a good start. Also following a link from a website like this one that has researched the companies and published the results online is a great idea.

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