Ethical considerations in using on-line surveys

Online Survey

Information for College of Human and Health Sciences applicants:

The College of Human and Health Sciences provides its staff and students with access to a Qualtrics survey software site license ( Qualtrics Guidance for students V3 ). The Ethics Committee has reviewed and supports the use of this survey software within CHHS.

Customers own and control all information that they collect/ enter into Qualtrics. This data remains in the jurisdiction that it was collected in. Qualtrics commits to never transferring data to a third party without the written permission of the customer. In other words, there is no onward transfer.

Please note that Qualtrics is a North American company. As such it has to comply with North American law, which means that data owned by Qualtrics can be requested if it is within the remit of the law or a court order is obtained. However, the only data that is owned by Qualtrics and therefore subject to request relates to normal business transactions.

If you have any concerns we urge you to review Qualtrics’ security statement ( and privacy statement ( You can also make further enquiries here ( 

Nevertheless, as with any survey software, we would urge you to check default settings so that data collected really are anonymised from the outset (if this is a claim being made in the participant information/ consent agreement). For example, ensuring that IP addresses are not collected when your survey is distributed (see guidance here:

From Autumn 2016, all new online projects within CHHS should be hosted within Qualtrics.

Information for College of Medicine applicants:

The Research Ethics Board endorses no particular online survey tool for College of Medicine applicants. If, however, you wish to look into Canadian-hosted sites, the following links may be helpful:

If you are considering using an online survey tool, it is important for you to know that if the tool is hosted by an American company (e.g. Survey Monkey), then you need to take certain precautions to ensure the confidentiality and/or anonymity of your survey participants.

It is important for you to know that online survey tools that are hosted by American companies are subject to U.S. laws; in particular, the US Patriot Act, which allows authorities access to the records of internet service providers. UNLESS YOU INDICATE OTHERWISE when constructing your survey, a U.S.-based company’s servers will record incoming IP addresses – including that of the computer that participants use to access the survey. You are advised to set up your survey to collect anonymous responses. The procedure for this depends on the type of collector/s you use:

1. If you use a Web Link collector (or any other collector), you must configure it to not collect IP addresses.

2. If you use the Email Invitation collector, you must configure it to not save the email addresses (in the Analyze section) and not to collect IP addresses.

If you are using a U.S.-based survey tool, the following statement should be included in the Informed Consent statement of your survey:

It is important for you to know that “[name of survey tool]” is a web-survey company that is located in the U.S.; this company is subject to U.S. laws and in particular, the Patriot Act, which allows the U.S. government to access the records of internet service providers. No personal identifiers will be collected in this survey but it is possible that the views and opinions you expressed may be accessed and linked to you without your knowledge or consent. In an effort to maintain anonymity, during the design of this survey, the option to collect your computer IP address has been disabled. The security and privacy policy for the [name of survey tool] can be found at the following link: [ insert appropriate link ]