The Best Practices Act – Differing Points of View by MRA and CASRO
Most of us feel slightly uncomfortable when we find out how much or our personal information is tracked, collected, and used for targeting purposes by many internet companies. I know that I became suspicious when the ads in my Gmail account automatically update based on what I typed in an email! Also suspicious—when LinkedIn recommends someone you know, but that you have no connections with and no commonalities in profile. This information is being captured and used without our explicit “choice.”
As Market Research enters into this technology-driven age, what are the consequences? It has become acceptable to mine social media sites and extract individual quotes and thoughts without asking, and then pass these on to companies without the individual knowing. If I was an unaware victim of this and discovered it one day, I would start to have doubts about my personal security, in particular with the Market Research Industry.
Quirk’s recently published two opposing articles about the future of privacy in our industry, in particular regarding the newly introduced Best Practices Act (H.R. 5777). The MRA said this Act could “end research as we know it”; however, CASRO denies this claim, seeing the Act as a positive junction for an industry “in need of improvement, not elimination”. So who to believe?
Privacy Act is Inevitable…and Also Necessary
As an industry, we want participants to trust us and volunteer to take part in our work, not cower that big brother is watching and stealing their information, thoughts, and ideas. The Best Practices Act is the beginning of an outline to a safe and mandated industry. I must side with CASRO on the issue. It is clear that the Act needs to be refined and better cover Market Research as an industry within its guidelines, but this Act is a necessary part of a bigger movement for the industry.
Many of the parts of the Best Practices Act discussed in the Quirk’s article should already be in place with any reputable Market Research company.
Making Privacy a Priority
My second claim to CASRO is that they reference that the Act embodies some elements from the CASRO Code of Standards. Speaking to my point above, these are items that should already be in place by serious Market Research firms. Our organization is a member of CASRO, and follows their Code of Standards. This allows us to stand apart from organizations that do not respect privacy, possibly causing respondents and clients to have poor impressions of our industry. Following a higher degree of ethical conduct allows us to protect individuals and companies, and earn respect for our work.
For the firms who are serious about research, this bill should not be a drastic change. For those that are not, it is an opportunity to decide if this industry is the right choice for their company. Participants should feel safe and desire to participate in surveys, whether mail, phone, online, or in-person.