Customer Experience

Why collecting sensitive survey data is putting your company at risk

There’s a real cost to storing sensitive survey data that never gets used.

Have you ever driven through a city at night to see block after block of office building windows lit up because the lights were left on? You can peer inside and see chairs, offices and conference rooms, but no people. Maybe you’ve wondered, like I have, why these businesses tolerate such a pointless waste of money and energy.

While not as obvious to the eye, your survey data could be wasting your money too.

When employees send out surveys that collect sensitive data like customer contact info, health data, financial details, demographics or account info, not only does that put the company at risk of data breaches and compliance failures, but even worse, much of that data will never even be used.

According to a recent Qualtrics survey of 250 data privacy decision makers, 53% of organizations store sensitive survey data but on average only use 27% use that data regularly

In fact, on average only 33% of the sensitive survey data stored is crucial to business.

There’s a real cost to storing sensitive survey data that never gets used. This is data waste. This is the research version of leaving the lights on all night. Why? Because it’s unneeded risk.

Organizations are making big investments in Data Loss Prevention (DLP) systems that keep sensitive data from leaving their networks, but with surveys, it’s equally important to keep sensitive survey data off the networks so it never poses a breach risk in the first place.

If your survey data is compromised, that’s a data breach that damages your brand and damages trust in your brand and tanks your stock. If you’re hosting unsanctioned survey data on EU customers, you’re at risk for compliance fines and scrutiny. When you host different pockets of sensitive survey data on different platforms with different teams, that’s a lot of expensive cats to wrangle

Storing sensitive survey data is like a hidden tax. You might not notice it, but that money is getting quietly lifted out of your paycheck every month.

And for what?

Organizations even say that on average they could delete 32% of their sensitive survey data without any serious consequence to the business.

Fortunately, the solution here is as simple as turning off a light switch.

First, standardize your research on one platform so there’s no Shadow IT, no hidden pockets of unprotected survey data, and no rogue research.

Second, avoid collecting sensitive survey data in the first place. Not only because there’s a low chance you need it, but also because it can be breached, compromised or put you at risk for regulation non-compliance.

To avoid collecting sensitive survey data, train your employees not to ask certain types of questions, run periodic checks, and use a platform like Qualtrics that automatically warns you if you are asking a question likely to collect sensitive information. Qualtrics even automatically checks responses to see if a respondent has offered unsolicited sensitive answers.

Today it is absolutely crucial to integrate your survey data into your privacy and Data Loss Prevention (DLP) efforts, because survey data is sensitive too. Just like other types of data, survey data can affect your brand reputation and compliance efforts. The costs of collecting unused survey data are too high to ignore any longer.

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Topics data security

Justin Ethington

Justin Ethington is a contributor to the Qualtrics blog.

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