Data Protection Act 1998 and Market Research

Undertaking market research using client email addresses

There is often reluctance on the part of our clients to allow us (or any other market research company) to have access to their database of e-mail addresses. They believe that they may fall foul of the Data Protection Act. A common response to a suggestion that we use the client database or databases associated with the proposed work is met typically with the following response:
“We are not able to let you use the database because it is against the Data Protection Act”.
Well, actually, it is not against the Data Protection Act.
This is of course a very understandable response, and in any event it is good to be cautious, but it is not the case. The Act defines research as compatible, and this is key to our ability to use databases as long as it is for the sole purpose of undertaking research.
The Data Protection Act 1998
The Second Data Principle states:
“Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes.” Click here to find that quote.
However, Section 33(2) of The Data Protection Act of 1998 states:
“For the purposes of the second data protection principle, the further processing of personal data only for research purposes in compliance with the relevant conditions is not to be regarded as incompatible with the purposes for which they were obtained.” Click here to find that quote.

What this means:

Say you have email addresses that are retained in a database as a result of selling tickets to individuals to see a sporting event. To then contact these individuals subsequently to undertake research to assess the success of the event would be deemed as a compatible activity under the Act.
What would not be deemed compatible would be if the emails were used for any other purpose whatsoever.
You should also understand that the individual is not obliged to respond, irrespective of methodology type – face-to-face, online, telephone or self-completion survey.
Furthermore all individual and identifiable information remain confidential and is never passed on to any third party without the express approval of the individual.
Please note, STR Tourism Consumer Insights abides by the Code of Conduct as laid down by the Market Research Society. The Company is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
market research edinburgh