Why marketing researchers should use HTTPS when conducting surveys

Fifty percent of Internet traffic is encrypted. That’s good news during a time of unprecedented data hacks and rising fears of the dark Web. The use of HTTPS:// has become relatively common and its use is expected to accelerate as more search engines follow Google’s lead and rank secure Web sites more highly than unsecured ones.

Privacy concerns over data security among the general public – who live a large portion of their lives online – is particularly alarming for survey respondents who share their data with marketing research firms. Providing survey links that are visibility secure is a simple way to increase your survey security while giving peace of mind to respondents and potentially improving survey response rates.

Added security

Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP, the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the Web site that you are connected to. HTTPS adds a security layer by encrypting the data transferred over the Internet.

How does it protect the respondent?

In the context of surveys, HTTPS encrypts the survey URL such that no third party can read the URL itself, thus mitigating the risks of exposed respondent data.

Secure survey links also maintain the anonymity of respondents. Secure links typically do not store IP or geolocation data making them attractive for many research projects, as success is dependent on the ability to assure survey respondents that their answers are anonymous.

There are a variety of reasons to conduct surveys anonymously. Employee satisfaction surveys, for example, offer employees a private safe space to provide feedback without the fear of being reprimanded for their honesty. Additional examples include conducting educational or medical research where privacy is required.

How do I benefit by using HTTPS in surveys?

By using HTTPS encryption, you build trust with respondents. HTTPS ensures that:

  • survey responses are encrypted;
  • surveys and their results are not accessible by third parties; and
  • respondents feel safe as their data and personal answers are handled securely.

How do I implement this if my survey software doesn’t support it?

HTTPS is becoming a standard addition to Web-based applications. If your current survey software does not support it, submit a development ticket to your survey provider. Speaking to your account representative about the importance of having an HTTP-compliant survey link can also prove helpful. More and more survey providers are integrating secure links into their offerings or plan to do so soon – you just have to help them move it up the priority pipeline.

Creating a secure environment

There are additional ways marketing researchers can help ensure that their respondents take surveys in a secure environment with ease. While the needs of each study will vary depending on the type of survey and invitation process, the list often include cookies, personalized invitations and password protection.

  • Cookies. In order to avoid duplicate responses to our surveys, marketing researchers can use cookies as part of their security measures. Cookies are small pieces of data stored in the respondent’s browser. Every time a respondent tries to enter the same survey the server is notified and checks to see if that user already completed the survey or if they were informed that they didn’t qualify for it. If the respondent has begun the survey but does not finish, he or she will continue the survey where they left off when they log back on.
  • Personalized invitations. It is advisable to send personalized e-mails with unique links to each panelist rather than a single open link. This helps in tracing back each response, providing an additional system check to ensure that the intended person is the one taking the survey.
  • Password protection. There are times when marketing researchers need to secure surveys using another layer of security because it needs to be sent to a specific group of respondents. In this case I recommend using password-protected surveys. This security feature makes sure that the survey is only viewed and completed by the respondents who received the e-mail invitation and prevents multiple responses by locking the access to the survey once it gets a final status (complete, quota full or term).

This blog post was originally published on Quirk’s Media