Is my employer trying to snoop on me through online surveys?

Question:

Our employer regularly asks us to fill out online surveys through SurveyMonkey, and says they’re anonymous. Are they? If we fill them out at our work stations, they’re linked to our computers. How is that anonymous?

Answer:

Although online surveys can provide anonymity, they don’t always. Since our company regularly administers such surveys for our clients (we use the popular SurveyMonkey platform, too), I asked our team how they — and your employer — can guarantee anonymity to individuals responding to such surveys.

“The person who creates the survey makes crucial decisions when developing and administering the survey that totally impact responder privacy,” says Marcus Bobbitt, a management consultant here at The Growth Company. “Collection methods determine the confidentiality responders receive.”

According to Bobbitt, online survey providers such as SurveyMonkey have “the capacity to protect the identity of the participant by not recording the IP address of the responder or tracking personal identifiers such as email addresses. If the survey URL begins with HTTPS:// those responding can rest assured the communication exchange is sent via SSL encryption, making it difficult to intercept.”

Bobbitt acknowledges that “Survey Monkey records the IP address of the responder if the survey is taken on company-owned equipment. This means your company’s IT personnel have the ability to trace the response back to the last user.”

Bobbitt suggests that you can “protect your confidentiality by accessing a survey on a personal computer or cellphone, provided the survey is administrated by a generic Web link or sent in a group email, and not via an individual email invitation.” He adds that because your email address creates a personal identifier that allows your response to be traced, many employers now use third-party vendors to protect against that.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”   Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”   Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm    The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter    @lynnecury10 or at  www.bullywhisperer.com

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