OPINION28 January 2013

‘Respect for personal data must be in the DNA of business’


Ensuring public trust in companies’ use of personal data is more important than ever, says Market Research Society CEO Jane Frost on the launch of the Fair Data trust mark.

For over 65 years MRS has represented researchers whose very survival depends on personal trust. Whether researching eating habits or the ultra-sensitive area of domestic violence, research wouldn’t work if the public didn’t trust us with the sometimes incredibly intimate details of their lives.

The MRS Code of Conduct has been protecting respondents and their data for nearly 60 years – pre-dating the introduction of data protection legislation.

“Research wouldn’t work if the public didn’t trust us with the sometimes incredibly intimate details of their lives”

And yet the ready availability and widespread use of personal data makes the issue of trust all the more important now.

58% of calls last year to the MRS Codeline advisory service were about data collection, integrity and use. Many of the complaints we get are about marketing.

The public can easily find out which companies to trust when it comes to environmental issues or the production and sourcing of ethical goods, but they have never had an easy way to identify who they can trust with their data.

Many companies have complex data protection policies in place, but that’s sometimes like building a giant castle wall – it keeps things out but doesn’t stop someone digging tunnels through to the middle of the keep.

A culture of respect for personal data needs to move outside IT and data security professionals and be part of the DNA of business – a key strand of the company’s respect for its customer and of its brand integrity.

So today, on Data Privacy Day, we launch Fair Data. We are issuing a call for companies to stand up and be counted and acknowledge the importance of public trust.

These companies will be easily identifiable by their use of the Fair Data trust mark.

We believe this will help the public. It is simple and understandable and it will help companies ensure that ethical data use spreads further than IT and security.

Jane Frost is chief executive of the Market Research Society. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on her blog. Republished with permission.