Data privacy and security: Tips to consider as a researcher

2 min read

Data privacy and security: Tips to consider as a researcher

In today’s fast-paced world, organizations must be able to adapt to changes in order to be successful. These changes can be due to a variety of factors, such as social, political, economic, or psychological. As a result, organizations need to analyze these variations to understand the problems their users face, their experiences, and the functionality of their systems.

Now, although it’s amazing how easily you can interact with your end user to improve their experiences, the data you collect brings a certain level of responsibility too.

Privacy protection is no longer considered an afterthought but a crucial aspect of research that must be considered from the beginning and throughout the research process.

Ever wondered how and why data protection became so important? Let’s take a look at it!

Why is protecting participant data so important?

The world is relying on data collection and processing more than ever before. At the same time, the data might be an asset for any researcher to solve a particular problem; it’s confidential information for an individual. 

With the increasing reliance on data collection and processing, participants’ personally identifiable information (PII) is more vulnerable to breaches and cyber threats. In 2021 alone, 50 million people in the US faced a healthcare data breach. As researchers, it is their responsibility to protect participants’ PII and collect only the necessary information for research. 

Best practices to follow to protect participants’ data in research

To protect participant data in research, the following best practices are recommended:

Hiding PII from everyone except administrators

This ensures that people who are not involved in the research directly do not have access to sensitive personal information.

Participants should be informed about the study, the data being collected, how it will be used, and what will be done with the data once the research is complete.

Default log system

This records important changes, responses, meetings, and survey views, making it easier for auditors to review the process and ensure PII safety.

Independent audits

Independent audits bring transparency to customers and ensure compliance with industry standards. Some organizations also hold SOC2 certification, which is a security standard that confirms their commitment to protecting sensitive customer information.

Data encryption

Encrypting data ensures that it is unreadable to unauthorized parties, even if it is intercepted or stolen.

Regular monitoring and updates

Regularly monitoring and updating security measures helps to identify and fix vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.

Employee education and training

Ensuring that employees are aware of data privacy and security policies and best practices, and providing regular training, can help reduce the risk of human error.

The bottom line

Data privacy and security must be the top priority for any researcher during a research process. People are usually hesitant to provide their genuine information due to the risk of data breaches, thus turning the module biased, which in turn gives an incorrect output, and hence wrong decisions are made based on that. During the research, it is the organization’s responsibility to maintain their participant’s anonymity, secure data sharing method, and even delete the data that is no longer required after research.

By implementing best practices such as hiding PII, informed consent, default log systems, independent audits, data encryption, regular monitoring and updates, and employee education and training, organizations can effectively protect participant data and promote transparency and trust with their customers. These standards will also bring in more reliable survey participants, thus eliminating the risk of bias.

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