News & Press: Legal Updates

CASRO Reiterates Position on Digital Fingerprinting Technology in Survey Research

Friday, October 2, 2009  
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CASRO Reiterates Position on
Digital Fingerprinting Technology in Survey Research

Port Jefferson, NY– In response to recent member company questions regarding Digital Fingerprinting (DF), the Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO) has reiterated its position on the technology’s use in survey research. CASRO believes that the use of digital fingerprinting pursuant to standards and guidelines that appropriately protect respondent privacy rights is an ethical practice. CASRO also believes that such use of DF technology is consistent with US privacy and data protection laws. Finally, CASRO believes that more data, research and input from providers and users of DF technology is needed before it can be determined whether the use of such technology complies with the privacy regulations of Canada or the EU.

Digital fingerprinting (machine ID) technology is used by survey researchers as an effective quality control that maintains the integrity of web-based research. Like any other computing technology, digital fingerprinting (DF) must be employed responsibly and transparently-- consistent with personal and data privacy laws and in accordance with ethical and professional standards.

DF technology collects data about a computer when it is connected to the internet and combines these data points using a proprietary algorithm to produce a unique identifier for that computer that can be referenced when the computer’s user takes a web-based survey. This unique identifier is used by research businesses to detect duplicate respondents and eliminate fraudulent surveys.

CASRO’s disposition toward new technology is to analyze whether the technology can be properly and ethically used in research, and, if so, to establish standards and guidelines for the use of the technology. CASRO has prepared a guideline on the ethical and professional use of DF, which describes the requirements for disclosure, transparency, and protection of personal data and privacy.

The legal opinion recently issued by Canada’s Marketing and Research Intelligence Association (MRIA) states that DF may not meet the "reasonableness test” of Canadian privacy law because there may be less privacy-invasive technologies that would accomplish the purpose of fraud prevention. CASRO’s Technology Committee will seek input from industry technologists and researchers as to the availability and effectiveness of other anti-fraud technologies. CASRO maintains, however, that technologies designed to improve online data quality, including digital fingerprinting, if ethically and accountably managed, do not breach personal and data privacy protections.

CASRO believes online research data quality is a critical issue and a major focus for research businesses, clients, and associations. The research industry, and the associations that serve it, must consider and evaluate the efficacy of all technologies and solutions that support the quality of online research.

Founded in 1975, CASRO represents over 325 research organizations in the U.S. and abroad, all of which annually reaffirm their adherence to the CASRO Code of Standards and Ethics for Survey Research, an internationally-respected code of business and professional standards. CASRO’s member benefits include a strong government and public affairs program, industry surveys and superb staff training and networking opportunities at workshops and conferences held throughout the year.

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