NEWS21 July 2011

MRS launches online privacy consultation


UK— The MRS’s Market Research Standards Board has opened a consultation on online data collection and privacy, with the possibility of changing its code and guidelines.

In a discussion paper the standards board has sought to set out the “legal and ethical parameters of online privacy”.

“In short, because information can be found it does not mean it should be used for research,” it says.

Because online privacy is an international matter, the board says, the “high-level principles” of the MRS code of conduct and European data protection law need to be taken into account.

It says: “The online environment is not a separate and distinct space with different rules. Virtual actions have real impacts in real life.” The view mirrors that set out in Esomar’s social media guideline, which has just been published.

The board also recognises the difficulty of defining “public internet areas” and sets out questions that researchers should ask before collecting information from such sources. These relate to the terms of use of the site or service in question, users’ knowledge and expectations of what is happening to their data, and copyright matters.

The paper can be found online here. Responses are invited by email to by 16 September.