Key Research Stages – During Fieldwork
L. Recording and Observation of Fieldwork
Personal Data Definition11.1
Personal data includes sound and image data e.g. non-anonymised audio recordings and video footage of an individual from which it would be possible to identify the individual.
MR subjects MUST be made aware at the time of recruitment if their input is to be recorded or observed (even if it is only for analysis purposes by the agency) and why it is proposed.
At the start of fieldwork MR subjects MUST be informed if their personal data is to be passed on to the commissioning client company.
Information to be Communicated to MR subjects when Observed by Client11.4
- The name of the recipient company
- If MR subjects agree the company name can be withheld until the end of fieldwork to avoid bias or the threat of disguised promotion. However if MR subjects do not want their non-anonymised input to be viewed this MUST be respected
- Why they are viewing – different purposes require separate consents
- Who (in terms of role/position not names) will see/listen to it
- Of the countries outside their own to which non-anonymised information will be transferred or viewed e.g. inform MR subjects filmed in France that the film will be viewed in the USA.
In the UK BHBIA guidance states that if fieldwork is viewed:
- Live via video-relay (including video-streaming) -.The Data Protection Act 1998 requires that client names are disclosed, so far as practicable, prior to viewing of non-anonymised fieldwork via video-relay. However, where revealing a client identity would bias or otherwise undermine the conduct of a research project, researchers may withhold the identity of the client at the outset of the research if withholding that information is unlikely to be detrimental to the participants. The client company name may be withheld until the end of the interview or, only where there is a genuine threat of disguised promotion by revealing the company name, indefinitely. When the client company name is withheld specific conditions must be met which are detailed in the full Guidelines.
- Delayed via video-relay (including video-streaming) - The Data Protection Act 1998 requires that client names are disclosed, so far as practicable, prior to viewing of non-anonymised fieldwork via video-relay. However, where revealing a client identity would bias or otherwise undermine the conduct of a research project, researchers may withhold the identity of the client until the end of fieldwork if withholding that information is unlikely to be detrimental to the participants. If there is a genuine threat of disguised promotion by revealing the company name and if withholding that information is unlikely to be detrimental to the participants, researchers may withhold the identity of the client indefinitely. If MR subjects refuse consent this must be respected.
Passing on Recordings without Consent11.5
Recorded data (audio or video that could identify individual MR subjects) given to clients without MR subject consent MUST be anonymised.
When Written Consent is Required11.6
MR subjects’ written consent for audio or video recording should be obtained at the beginning of the interview before recording commences, oral consent is satisfactory in Germany. Where multiple purposes exist or are possible, explicit consent for each purpose should be obtained. Combining non-research purposes with market research is prohibited by MR guidelines in Germany, adverse event reporting within the context of a market research project is considered a market research activity.
When a MR subject Withdraws11.7
If a MR subject withdraws from the research at any stage e.g. during a group discussion, their contribution MUST be withdrawn from the final analysis and reporting, if they request this.
When Recipients of Recordings Change11.8
If the recipient(s) of the non-anonymised recorded data changes after MR subjects have given consent for its release, all MR subjects MUST be re-contacted (assuming consent or re-contact has been give) and consent given for further release, giving details of the people to whom the data will now be shown.
Delayed Viewing of Fieldwork e.g. by video streaming11.9
To ensure that unauthorised viewers cannot access recorded material EphMRA recommends that the commissioning agency/client ensures that:
- Comprehensive security measures are in place
- Access is password protected and restricted to authorised users (identified through a unique login id) and that login ids/passwords are distributed only by the project leader
- Authorised users agree in writing not to allow access to unauthorised personnel (see pro forma 4 – Client Agreement to Safeguard Confidentiality of Recordings).
Recordings should not be archived for no longer than is required to fulfil the purposes of the study. In Germany, MR industry guidelines state that end clients must destroy copies of non-anonymised recordings after 3 months.
If it is possible that the MR subject could be identified by the audio-recording alone they should not be passed to client companies unless the MR subject has given their informed consent, although requesting consent is prohibited by MR industry guidelines in Germany.
Client Awareness of Restrictions on use of Recorded Data11.12
Clients should be made aware of the restrictions on the use of recorded data at the start of a project if there is a possibility that they may want to watch or listen to copies of recordings during or after the project.
Protecting Data When it is Transferred11.13
The agency MUST ensure that the country or organisations in those countries to which any personal data are transferred by them or their sub-contractors have adequate data protection measures in place, particularly outside the EEA.
When client observers are introduced, they do not need to be introduced by name. It is sufficient to tell MR subjects the nature of their roles within their company and in general terms their reasons for observing. Clients or their sub-contractors MUST NOT be passed off as members of the research agency.
Observers should be informed of their responsibilities towards MR subjects and agree to:
- Withdraw from observing if a MR subject is known to them/recognised to protect the MR subject’s anonymity. If an observer knows that they will subsequently have to deal with a MR subject, the attendee MUST also withdraw. However, if MR subjects are made fully aware of the presence of an observer known to them and give explicit consent for that individual to observe then that person may remain at the session, however care should be taken to ensure that MR subjects are completely comfortable with this. In Canada observers should be told that if they find they know any of the participants they must stop observing and notify the researcher. In Japan, if a (HCP) MR subject is known to an observer, the observer MUST sign an agreement that they will never disclose information gained while observing, never make any notes, and never use directly or indirectly the information for sales/promotion activities. In Germany MR industry guidelines require that the possibility that MR subjects are known to observers should be ruled out before viewing.
- Respect the confidentiality of all information exchanged in interviews/groups.
- Not record any MR subject’s personal data or record any information with the specific aim of establishing the identity of a MR subject.
- Not make any notes or recordings that could be attributed to a specific MR subject.
- Not use the information to influence future approaches to a MR subject.
- Not use information gained whilst observing to amend or build databases.
- Abide by the guidelines for observers. It is good practice to obtain a signed pro forma from all observers agreeing to adhere to these guidelines.
These conditions should apply whether observers are watching a recording or video stream in remote locations or are viewing at the research location.
In Canada, MRIA members must make sure that any observer of fieldwork or recipient of a fieldwork recording is aware of the requirements of the MRIA Code and the need to abide by these.