Addressing the Challenges of Privacy, Sensitivity, and Security in Social Science Research
ISA’s 2018 World Congress theme draws attention to concerns associated with “global economic and geo-political processes” that threaten social freedoms “in the name of security.” Given these circumstances, it is particularly important that, for example,official statistics be above reproach. Their integrity relies on willing and truthful participation in surveys conducted by National Statistics Institutes (NSIs) , where legal authority encourages participation and assures confidentiality.
However, with the advent of online surveys, procedures to ensure confidentiality and security of survey data face new challenges, along with efforts to convey these assurances to survey participants and the public. The sensitivity of certain data items may be heightened, and transparent methodology meant to assure the public of legitimacy may also lead to concerns about identifiable information being discovered through technical ingenuity.
These challenges to privacy, confidentiality, transparency and security may come from both inside and outside survey research organisations. Not only may survey responses be exposed by unscrupulous hackers, legitimate cybersecurity procedures, rely on monitoring and screening of computer systems to detect malicious or threatening activities. For example, the 2015 U.S. Cybersecurity Enhancement Act allows authorities to examine data transmissions, but only if malicious activity is detected via routine security procedures.
To maintain the integrity of statistics in the current socio-economic environment, survey practitioners must ensure informed consent among survey respondents. For this session, presenters are invited to describe research and implementation of informed consent requirements under current challenges to privacy, confidentiality, transparency and cybersecurity. We especially invite presenters from NSIs.