Survey Data Privacy

The office of Institutional Research (IR) as responsible data stewards, place great importance on protecting privacy when collecting, compiling, analyzing, and disseminating information. We seek to be fair and transparent and will always inform you of the level of confidentiality you can expect for each survey.

Survey Privacy Levels:

Anonymous

Confidential

Non-Confidential

Other Considerations:

Shared Survey Data

Comments: Reporting Policy

Comments: Personally Identifiable

Anonymous

When Institutional Research (IR) administered surveys are marked as “anonymous” you can expect:

Institutional Research (IR) staff do not have access to information about who took an anonymous survey.

Surveys indicated by IR as anonymous are truly anonymous – these survey responses cannot be traced back to the participant. There is no personally identifiable information captured by the survey (unless a participant voluntarily provides identifying information within a comment box).

  • Results are reported in aggregate only – meaning that individual survey results are combined and presented as a group.
  • Survey results will not be reported when there is risk of breach of confidentiality e.g. groups of one or two individuals, or specific demographic profiles.
  • Comments are reported exactly as written, in a list. Comments are not displayed publicly and redaction by a neutral party is sometimes utilized.

How it works: IR uses the “anonymize responses” option in Qualtrics which allows use of personalized email invitations and reminders and responses gathered are permanently scrubbed of identifying information before saving to the data. Or, IR may use anonymous links which are not associated with any identifying information. Both processes completely and irreversibly disconnect the response from the contact who submitted the response.

Demographics: Anonymous surveys often ask for demographic information, which is used to gauge how closely the survey sample reflects the population it is meant to represent. IR will never report demographics in such a way that a particular individual could be identified based on their demographic profile.

Confidential

Confidential is the most frequently used privacy level for surveys administered by Institutional Research (IR). When a survey is marked as “confidential” you can expect:

Institutional Research (IR) staff have access to information about who took a confidential survey; however, this information is kept confidential and is not available to anyone outside the office.

  • Results are reported in aggregate only – meaning that individual survey results are combined and presented as a group.
  • IR will never connect a survey participant’s name or ID with their survey response in any type of report.
  • Survey results will not be reported when there is risk of breach of confidentiality e.g.  groups of one or two individuals, or specific demographic profiles.
  • Comments are reported exactly as written, in a list. Comments are never connected with a participant’s name or ID.  Comments are not displayed publicly and redaction by a neutral party is sometimes utilized.

Non-Confidential

Occasionally, surveys are used as a form (e.g. event registrations, budget requests, Institutional Review Board forms) in which case the participants name must accompany their response in the report and IR will not typically disclose a level of confidentiality.

Other Considerations

Shared Survey Data

In some cases, IR may share student survey data with a department within the university with an educational need to know that falls under the guidelines outlined in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Comments: Reporting Policy

In accordance with institutional, state, and federal policies, comments which meet mandated reporting requirements must be reported.

Comments: Personally Identifiable Information

It is the sole responsibility of the participant to refrain from sharing potentially individually identifiable information within survey comment boxes. Comments are reported exactly as written, in a list. Reported comments are never connected with a participant’s name or ID.

Questions?

Should you have any remaining questions about survey privacy please don’t hesitate to contact the office of Institutional Research.