Survey Confidentiality

The office of Institutional Research (IR) places great importance on protecting the privacy of survey data.  Responses to surveys administered by Institutional Research (IR) are kept confidential, with a few exceptions outlined below. IR will always inform you of the level of confidentiality for each survey.

Confidential

  • Institutional Research (IR) staff have access to information about who took a survey, but this information is not available to anyone outside the office.
  • 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 if there is risk of breach of confidentiality.
  • Results are reported in aggregate – meaning that individual survey results are combined and presented as a group.
  • Results will not be reported for groups with two or less respondents as there is risk of breach of confidentiality.
  • 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.

Exceptions

Anonymous surveys

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 unless a participant voluntarily leaves identifying information within a comment box.

How it works: IR uses the “anonymize responses” option in Qualtrics in which responses gathered are permanently scrubbed of identifying information before saving the data. Alternatively, 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.

Non-Confidential Surveys

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 disclose a level of confidentiality.

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 confidentiality, contact the office of Institutional Research.