How to collect secure survey data

Whether you own a small business or are part of a large corporation or a government organization, data security is of the utmost importance when you’re gathering information of any kind. That’s especially true when you’re using online surveys, which is why it’s important to research the security features of your survey software to ensure the data you own and the data you collect from your respondents is in good hands. Without secure surveys, you may end up losing more than just information — you could also lose your reputation.

The importance of secure surveys

When you’re conducting an online survey, you’re asking respondents to provide you with their data, which can include personal details like their names, addresses as well as their opinions on certain topics.

If your respondents give you this information, they expect you to be responsible with their data and keep it safe, making sure it can’t be accessed by anyone else. If they don’t trust you or the survey software you use, you likely won’t be able to gather the insights you need. After all, if you can’t collect a certain number of responses, the survey may not be useful to your project, which means you could waste time, resources, and energy developing it.

“Due to the increase in digital platforms and the value of data, it’s only natural that data breaches are becoming more commonplace,” says Dominic Cooper, creative director of Vu Online, a web design and digital marketing agency. “Even large organizations struggle to keep security weaknesses at bay, and with the change of regulations to data protection in 2018, we are all far more aware of how our data should be handled and what rights we have for erasure.”

Potential consequences of survey security breaches

How can a security breach negatively impact your survey and your business? There are many serious potential consequences:

  • You can lose the survey data completely.
  • Your survey respondents might lose trust in your business and refuse to complete future surveys.
  • Your organization’s reputation may suffer in the long term.
  • You may experience additional security breaches in other systems.
  • You may face legal repercussions for losing confidential data.

Anthony Martin, the CEO of Choice Mutual and a member of the Forbes Finance Council, deals with a lot of sensitive customer information in his business. “There are countless risks,” he says. “The tighter security gets, the more ways hackers find around them. However, if you’re an e-commerce business that needs customers to enter their card details, their keystrokes could be recorded and used without their consent if you don’t have the right protection on your website. A good measure would be to delete card details, especially CVV numbers, or at least ask for consent before you store them in the first place.”

Martin goes on to say, “Phishing, malware, and ransomware are viruses that easily make their way into your personal data and are very hard to get rid of. Hacking into passwords is also a security risk that organizations must consider. If they let users log in and create accounts, a hacked account may lead to stolen identity and defamation.”

Features to protect your data

With so many online survey software applications available, how do you know which one will meet your needs and keep your data safe? When it comes to security, look for these elements in your survey software:

  • 256-bit SSL connection
  • Form encryption
  • PCI certification
  • GDPR compliance
  • HIPAA compliance 
  • Spam protection
  • Privacy settings for forms

Jotform provides all of these features and also takes a number of other security measures, such as having highly secure data centers, a local data residency center, a real-time backup policy, and frequent security audits.

Protecting your survey software with secure passwords is also critical. “The most common hack for small businesses that we see is down to weak passwords,” says Cooper. “A system is only as strong as the password, so you may be inviting trouble without creating and managing an organizational process for this. There are data harvesting tools that slip in unnoticed and turn platforms into spam machines, but there are a growing number of high-profile ransomware attacks also.”

Martin suggests, “Look for cloud-based software. This means you won’t have to worry about the security and upkeep of your software, as a third-party with vast infrastructure will do it for you. It reduces costs and maintains security, and you can raise concerns when you have them, just like with any other service.”

Secure surveys do more than just protect your data. They also protect your business’s reputation and revenue. Be sure to thoroughly vet your survey software and check that it has multiple layers of security features designed to keep your data safe from potential breaches.

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