Client anonymity and GDPR

A common issue that arises when assessing the market for an innovation is managing client anonymity and whether the act of revealing the client will induce respondent bias within the survey or compromise confidentiality in the marketplace.

The Market Research Society Code of Conduct states that members must not disclose the identity of clients or any confidential information about clients without the client’s permission, unless there is a legal obligation to do so.

Frequently, in business-to-business market research projects, clients request to remain anonymous. In the context of GDPR, whether client anonymity is possible depends on a number of factors such as whether the client is supplying any personal data for use in the survey process. For example, if a client supplies a database of customers in order to undertake a customer satisfaction survey. In this instance, the client must be named during the survey data collection process e.g. during a telephone or face-to-face interview.

Similarly, if a client will receive personal data from the survey process, they must be named. For example, if the client wishes to know who has participated in the survey, this information must be shared with the respondents during data collection in order for them to be able to provide us with their informed consent.

There are occasions when the client can remain anonymous. For example, if the client will receive only aggregated and anonymous data and has not provided any personal data, then the client may remain anonymous.

A key issue when conducting market research is determining who fulfils the role of data controller and data processor. In some instances, the roles can be shared between client and research agency and will be clearly set out in a contractual agreement.

At Accelerate, we take great care to explain to all respondents why we are contacting them and how we will record and process their responses and for what purpose.

Our work is confidential and respondents are frequently anonymous. On the rare occasions that revealing the client may significantly impact the research protocol, we ensure that appropriate measures are put into place such as:

  • The client is named at the end of their interview. This reasons for this are explained to all respondents at the start of their interview
  • We ensure that respondents know who we are and how to contact us if they have any queries about the survey
  • We reassure respondents that we will delete any personal data that has been collected during their interview should they withdraw their consent on learning the identity of the client.

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