Best Practices for Protecting Individual Privacy in Conducting Survey Research

As governments and public sector organizations strive to become more efficient, accountable and customer focussed, they frequently seek input from the public about their programs and services. One of the most cost-effective ways to accomplish this is through surveys.

While surveys can be an important tool for shaping government programs and services, they may involve the collection, retention, use, disclosure and disposal of personal information. It is important that they comply with provincial and municipal access and privacy legislation.

To help organizations meet their obligations, this paper details the privacy considerations at each stage in the design and implementation of surveys and recommends best practices which are based on  legislation. For quick reference, a best practices “checklist” can be found at the end of the document. You may wish to use this tool as an aid in reviewing the relevant privacy issues at each stage of a survey.

This paper is an update to a previous version and addresses the privacy issues raised by the use of new information and communications technologies in surveys. New topics include online survey providers, metadata and cellphones.

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