NEWS6 July 2010

MRA weighs in on MR confidentiality as FDA probes Phillip Morris

Government North America

US— The Marketing Research Association has warned the Food and Drug Administration thats its demands to see the results of research carried out by tobacco giant Phillip Morris could violate confidentiality by identifying survey respondents.

The FDA demanded to see research that Phillip Morris had carried out into its Marlboro Lights brand ahead of a change of name to Marlboro Gold to comply with new laws that ban the use of words such as ‘light’ or ‘mild’ in tobacco brands.

The government body was concerned that Marlboro Lights customers might think they were still smoking a lighter – and therefore less dangerous – cigarette, so decided to investigate what they made of the change by demanding to see research that Phillip Morris had carried out.

However, the MRA’s general counsel LaToya Rembert-Lang said that while the association understood the importance of the investigation, “the integrity of the survey and opinion research profession is in jeopardy when such broad mandates run counter to the standards of the survey and opinion research profession to protect the confidentiality of all research data”.

She added: “Any request that may potentially identify a participant or release a participant’s information without their express consent runs counter to the ethical standards and integrity of the survey and opinion research.”


11 years ago

It is not uncommon for government agencies to subpoena documents releating to market research. When, as in the PM case, the agency directs the subpoena to the company, then respondent privacy issues are usually minimal or non-existent, since its unlikely that that the company has any respondent identifiable information. When the agency directs the subpoena to the research organization, then respondent privacy can be impacted. In those cases, however, the research organization can often sucessfully negotiate the subpoena (or obtain a court order) so that it excludes respondent identifiable information, or places such information under a confidentiality agreement with the government. In such cases, the primary issue for research organizations becomes legal fees, for which we recommend research companies provide in their client service agreements.

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11 years ago

It seems to me this is an easy thing to work with. Can't they provide the data sans contact info?

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10 years ago

Couldn't have said it better myself Mr. Berlin.

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