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One Step Ahead
September 16, 2008, Volume 55, No. 4

One Step Ahead

Another tip in a series provided by the Offices of Information Systems & Computing and Audit, Compliance & Privacy.

Conducting an Online Survey? Be Sure You Know Who Can Access the Results

Web-based tools have revolutionized the way that surveys are conducted and their results analyzed. Popular online tools, such as SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang and QuestionPro, speed up survey creation and distribution, and streamline submission of responses. These tools can also create a wide variety of analytical reports almost instantaneously. 

The value of web-based survey tools is clear. At the same time, it is important to be aware of a potential privacy concern: who will have access to the survey results?

The process for granting access to survey results requires focused attention. For example, one web-based tool provides two pages of instructions on that topic. The instructions describe how survey results can be kept private—viewed only by the survey originator—or shared with others on a restricted or a public basis. For sharing the results, a web link is generated that provides access to the results; the link can be provided to others by e-mail, by posting on a web page, and/or by sharing it with respondents as soon as the survey is completed. This array of options, and the technical steps required to implement them, present opportunities for error if you are not especially alert. One wrong click can turn the most private surveys into public, widely-shared information.

The take-away? When you create an online survey, be sure to pay as much attention to results-sharing options as you already do to the survey design and distribution.


To receive weekly OneStepAhead  tips via email, send email to listserv@lists.upenn.edu with the following text in the body of the message:  sub one-step-ahead <your name>.

For additional tips, see the One Step Ahead link on the Information Security website: www.upenn.edu/computing/security/.

Almanac - September 16, 2008, Volume 55, No. 4