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The Ethics of Data Privacy

Thursday 21 July, 2022
by Anonymous

You work in superannuation, spending much of your time analysing client data to help understand how best to add value and engage people with their future self.

Every 6 months you are assigned the role of rolling out the employee survey that takes the cultural pulse of the organisation. Covid has not only created a hybrid environment, but has also triggered an organisational restructure.

With so much going on, the survey is paying particular attention to employees' wellbeing. It is trying to measure morale and form an understanding of employees expectations and the changing culture.

It is an anonymous survey, although given your role, you are able to identify individuals. The results to the survey were better than expected, however data suggests there are two people who are experiencing challenging mental health issues.

Within this confidential environment, should you do anything to address this?

A sign asking you how your day is?

What would you do?

We encourage you to post your answers in the comments so we can create a healthy discussion, with the aim of learning from our peers, becoming aware of differing perspectives and challenging our own biases.

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There are 5 comments for The Ethics of Data Privacy.

Re: The Ethics of Data Privacy

Friday 22 July, 2022
by Elizabeth
Sounds like there is a problem if the staff member can figure out who these people are. The survey method should be changed so that this can't happen. If you are offering anonymity then you need to send everyone the same link rather than everyone having an individual link. Poor survey practice, where promised anonymity is not genuine, is causing a big problem across the industry and tends to make people less truthful in their responses.
If you are running a survey that encompasses mental health then this creates additional ethical challenges as such a survey may trigger distress. Ideally the survey should be set up so that ALL participants are reminded of resources they can access such as EAP if they are experiencing challenges.
Sounds like this survey methodology needs major overhaul!

Re: The Ethics of Data Privacy

Friday 22 July, 2022
by Charlotte
I would make a general announcement that the results were promising, in that our culture was looking good but there were still signs of stress and then list a number of resources for people to reach out such as the organisation's EAP.

Re: The Ethics of Data Privacy

Friday 22 July, 2022
by Jonothan
If I felt someone was in a position where they could be do harm to themselves I would have a responsibility to care for their well being - otherwise why do the survey. I would privately and kindly address them with my concerns and offer any assistance I could.

Re: The Ethics of Data Privacy

Friday 22 July, 2022
by stephen
The survey is confidential, end of story.

Re: The Ethics of Data Privacy

Friday 22 July, 2022
by Joy
If employees have been told that the survey is anonymous, they have provided this information on that basis and it would be wrong to then contact them directly. Communications with staff about the results should include observations that the results indicated that some staff might be experiencing challenging mental health issues, reaffirming the organisation's care for those people and willingness to support them should it be helpful, and, as others have suggested, provide EAP details.

If the staff concerned are contacted, there is a significant risk they would be further disempowered as it would indicate that the survey was not, in fact, anonymous.

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