NEWS7 May 2020

Vigilance needed on data protection, say industry bodies

Covid-19 Data analytics News North America UK

UK – Market research firms need to be “extremely vigilant” on data protection practices in the aftermath of Covid-19, delegates at the Virtual Insight Summit have heard.

Lock representing data privacy

In a panel on Tuesday ( 5th May), Jane Frost, chief executive of the MRS, Greg Melia, chief executive of the Customer Experience Professional Association (CXPA), Joaquim Bretcha, president of Esomar, and Melanie Courtright, chief executive of the Insights Association, discussed some of the challenges facing the industry.

Privacy and data protection was a major issue, and Bretcha warned that the sector had to be careful with data to avoid following the path of tech industries that have fallen foul of legislators.

“We have to be extremely vigilant that our practices are totally clean, according to law and what is expected from us,” he said. “Until now we were in the infancy of the internet. We thought we had come very far, but we were still in the internet’s infancy, and now we are starting to learn the implications of our digital lives.

“Covid-19 has pushed us into the teenage years of the internet. Now we know the implications in terms of privacy, we have to be very vigilant to make our industry a good fit for the challenges.”

Bretcha also called for more collaboration between companies in Asia and Europe, noting that Asia had experienced the pandemic earlier and could offer good advice on how to handle the situation. He added that he thought market research would become more important as companies rely on good decision-making after Covid-19.

“Bad data leads to bad decisions,” Bretcha said. “So it is our time to showcase how good we are at interpreting reality and helping decision makers to take a good decision.”

Frost also said that she thought opinion-led research could be beneficial during the pandemic.

“We shouldn’t see off the demise of opinion-led research too soon,” she said. “If you want to predict how people will react to policy and brand initiatives, you are going to have to ask them. Behaviour at the moment just cannot be trusted, as what is normal?”

She also warned of the financial impact of the pandemic and the resulting lockdown on smaller firms.

“We are seeing corporate membership increase, but inevitably are going to have problems with the huge numbers of small companies and sole traders who are having a lot of problems even surviving at the moment,” Frost said. “While the government protection is in place, the situation is not critical, but I am sure it will become critical.”

Melia said that the insights industry had to ensure research participants were aware of data privacy issues.

“How people feel when they receive surveys really impacts the perception of who we are and what we do together,” he said.