Thursday, 6 March 2008

Please secure my concept!

All of you who are dealing with online concept testing heard the question: "how do you secure my stimulus material in your online survey?". I am sure you've all come up with the appropriate answers to your client. Either you use specific software tools to secure graphic material in online surveys, or you actually designed the tool yourself within your company.

Using JavaScript, it is common practice to ensure that respondents are discourages from copying the images within a survey. The advantages of using such techniques are:
  • Disabling the use of the right click button to prevent the “copy,” “save,” and “print” functions.

  • Restrict the ability to print from the User’s toolbar.

  • Attempting to print a page results in a blank page printing.

  • Security is delivered without requiring any specific view program.

But there simply is no way to completely prevent a respondent from saving images, there are limitations. A savvy internet user may still save the images: The respondent may use “Print Screen” to get a picture of the image. However, when using Print Screen the entire screen is saved, including template headers and footers, forcing the respondent to edit the saved image. The image may also be saved using the “Save As” from the browser toolbar. The tools do not prevent the respondent from viewing the source code which contains the link to the image. However, this function is disabled if the respondent is using an Internet Explorer browser to take the survey due to the use of a secure survey link.

So what to do?

Other non software related measures to secure graphics and video include:

  • Excluding certain cities / zip codes / regions from your sample (perhaps those where competitor employees are living / working). E.g. should you be doing an online Kraft concept test in the US, why not consider to exclude the home-town of P&G

  • Obviously you should always have the "security screening": excluding certain professions (e.g. marketing, press, certain industries related to the product)

  • Excluding certain e-mail accounts (e.g. no panellists that enrolled in the panel using an e-mail address of the a certain company will be invited)

  • Showing graphs and images for only a couple of seconds (to limit the time of actually taking a picture of the screen with a mobile device or photo camera)

I am not in favour of sending out Non-disclosure agreements to panellists prior to any certain research: this will only trigger more attention!

In the end, should you have found the perfect software, it is still possible for malicious respondents to simply take a picture of the screen with their camera or mobile phone!

Fact remains that no 100% guarantee can be given, but remember: this is valid for other field work modes too, right? Any ideas?

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