Online Privacy, Market Research and Storing Data

With so many scaremongering stories on the news about identity theft and fraud online, and an increasing number of us storing all our personal information on social media sites and other apps, online privacy is always making the headlines.  From changing social media privacy agreements to companies selling your information without your knowledge, the online world is a minefield for anyone concerned about keeping their private information just that, private.

Online Privacy and Market Research
When it comes to carrying out market research, there are some basic rules you need to follow.  You can use social media to interact with your customers and followers, sparking up a conversation or taking part in an existing discussion, but you shouldn’t invade anyone’s privacy.  This means that you shouldn’t really contact people without their permission on websites such as Facebook and Twitter.  If they’re an existing customer who has already signed up for your newsletter, then you’ll have their personal email address so can ask them if they would be interested in filling out an online survey, or target them as part of a marketing campaign.  But on social media sites, you should respect online privacy – it’s a far better move to tweet or post a Facebook status update saying that you’re looking for participants for a customer survey as part of a market research project, than it is to approach people directly via a private message.  Remember too, that any information people provide you with as part of your survey is your responsibility, so make sure you comply with data protection and shred paperwork or dispose of digital files securely when your research project is finished!  Alternatively you can use specialist companies like Decision Fuel to gather statistics by using online surveys sent to an already established database.

A Real Threat
Online privacy will only become more of a concern as time goes on, and consumers have plenty to worry about, although most of the advances in technology will bring with them more benefits than problems for the average person.  Modern advances such as scannable chips on products on your supermarket shelves are already being rolled out across parts of America, so you no longer have to waste time queuing at the checkout to pay for your shopping – the store knows exactly what you bought and will bill you accordingly! 

Loss of Privacy
Many people are concerned about this loss of privacy, and it’s true that whilst it brings huge benefits to market researchers and companies, who will learn more than ever before about their customers, the benefits it provides to the general public may not be something which everyone will want to take advantage of, and there will always be those who resist advances in technology, preferring a more traditional lifestyle.

In short, online privacy is a growing concern, and you should take steps to protect yourself by taking steps such as never opening email if you don’t know the sender, only using websites you’re confident are genuine and other, simple steps that are mostly common sense.  As market researchers, the changes in social media and the internet, and the popularity of smart phones are all positives steps as they make finding out more about consumers so much easier!
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