4 Best Practices for Survey Privacy

SurveyExpression has collected millions of responses to surveys. People who fill out SurveyExpression surveys often ask us whether their survey responses are truly anonymous and safe from prying eyes. After all, sometimes respondents are only comfortable with providing honest feedback if they know that their responses can’t be traced back to them!

The first thing to know is that surveys are set up by a survey creator and not by SurveyExpression. SurveyExpression provides the tools for creators to configure their surveys how they want. This includes allowing them to collect strictly anonymous responses, or to choose to identify their respondents.

If survey creators want to identify respondents, they could of course just ask who you are (e.g. ask you for your name and contact information using a demographic survey question type). We also offer the option for surveys to collect respondent IP addresses or email addresses. While an IP address will not necessarily disclose your identity, IP addresses are often indicative of a geographic location.

If survey creators already have an email list, they can collect responses using our “email collector”. Email collectors are a way of inviting survey responses by sending the survey link directly to their list of email addresses. Each invitee receives an email with a personalized link to the survey, which allows the creator to match up an email address with the responses. Creators can also choose not to perform this match up, but still track which email addresses have completed the survey, so that they can re-send the survey to anyone who has not replied.

SurveyExpression takes privacy seriously, and we would like to help our customers to do the same. Survey participants want to know what will happen to their survey responses after they submit them. Informing participants how you will handle their answers puts them more at ease and can lead to higher response rates and more accurate feedback. So, with surveys, good privacy practices are all about being transparent about how you handle respondents’ personal information, and letting respondents know how they can access or control the information you’ve collected about them.

Here are some tips on how you can reassure survey participants that their responses will be treated appropriately.

1. Collect results anonymously, if possible

If you don’t need to identify your respondents, then make sure you turn off IP address collection on your survey. If you’re using an email collector, turn off the feature which saves email addresses along with responses.

2. Disclose your privacy policy

If you already have a privacy policy that is applicable to your survey (which may be the case if you’re running a survey for your employer), you should link to it at the start of the survey. If you don’t have one, consider describing what you are going to do with your survey results: what personal information you will collect, how you will use it, whether you’re going to share it with anyone. If you’re collecting responses on an anonymous basis, great! You can just say that instead.

3. Tell people who you are

If you use a web collector, sometimes your survey link gets spread far and wide. People who arrive at your survey might have no idea who is conducting the survey unless you tell them. Telling respondents who you are and providing your contact details helps to put people at ease that you’re not some shady character looking to steal and sell their personal information. In SurveyExpression, you can place that information in the description section of the first page of your survey.

4. Show off your results

Respondents are often just as interested in the results of the survey as you are. If you’re running that kind of survey, let your respondents know where they can check out the results of the survey afterwards! One way you can do this is including this information on a Thank You page.