Data capture is an inherently delicate endeavour. Without the information that we help to collate and analyse for your company, improvements cannot be made nor faults identified. However, it is in the nature of our business to handle data and information that is particularly sensitive or personal, so the utmost discretion and security is essential. With this crucial dichotomy in mind, let us talk you through a couple of ways in which you can maximise the usefulness of your data whilst ensuring the utmost protection and security for your subjects.
Firstly, based upon the nature of your study, you must decide as to what particulars of data you require. Consider whether it will hinder your study to conduct your research anonymously. Without names and addresses of audience members, there is little risk to their safety posed by the rest of the data gathered – but you won’t be able to follow up particular subsections of your answer-group without them. Random Unique Reference Numbers (URNs) can be used to identify when data has been collected whilst still keeping identities anonymous and protected. Furthermore, consider whether the more sensitive areas of your research are necessary. If they aren’t, they can be removed. If they are, further security measures will be required. Many of these particulars can be straightened out by running a pilot study before your main research study, so bear this in mind. On a tight budget, full preparation is key.
If you are conducting a particularly sensitive study, perhaps you should consider whether the data should be gathered digitally. While a paper hard-copy of a study can be interpreted and used by anyone with access to it, a well-protected digital copy with a strong password is much harder to compromise. Niche applications specifically developed for security and storage of sensitive data can assist in the encryption of data, fulfilling the legal Duty of Care that organisations are entrusted with when collecting personal datasets. With the right security measures in place, a digital study can be used to protect and secure even the most sensitive of data.
Compilation and analysis
The more people that are exposed to a study, the greater the chance of a potential security breach. By streamlining and automating as much of the process as possible, your data will be exposed to fewer people, minimising the chances of malicious usage or inadvertent security breaches. Automated processes such as form scanning and digital analysis can increase productivity as well as reducing the chances for human error.
Sharing your data with others is a great way of maximising the useful analysis performed on it. However, the utmost discretion must be applied when sharing data, as the opportunity for security breaches is great at this stage. The internet has acted to liberate a huge number of people, making them comfortable to share names, addresses, emails and personal views, all with little thought as to who may access information during its transmission. Be sure to subject any potential collaborators on your data to a strict vetting process and ensure that you always conform to the terms of the Data Protection Act. If in any doubt, remember to prioritise the security of your data over anything else; you can often share your findings without necessarily compromising your sources.
Document Capture Co. has helped a range of clients to walk this narrow tightrope and ensure the most effective solutions possible can be found. If this is a burning issue, call us to find out how our expertise and experience could help.