Friday, November 11
Questionnaire Design
Fri, Nov 11, 10:30 AM - 11:55 AM
Hibiscus A
Questionnaire Design for Sensitive Topics and Confidentiality

Changing the Confidentiality Pledge: Will Respondents Notice? (303538)

*Jennifer Edgar, Bureau of Labor Statistics 
Robin Kaplan, Bureau of Labor Statistics 

Keywords: confidentiality, cognitive interviews, focus groups, data collection

Privacy and confidentiality assurances are of central importance to survey respondents’ decisions to participate in surveys and the types of information they are willing to disclose. Although respondents report confidentiality and data security is important to their decision to participate, some research has shown that the some language often used in confidentiality pledges is not well understood, and yet federal government surveys are known for high response rates.

The Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015 requires the installation of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) EINSTEIN cybersecurity protection system on all Federal civilian information technology systems. Since many of the Federal statistical agencies use confidentiality pledges (e.g., the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act, or CIPSEA, of 2002) that state respondents’ data will be seen only by a statistical agency’s employees or sworn agents, revisions to the confidentiality language will be required to inform respondents of the access DHS will have to the systems that transmit their data.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in collaboration with other statistical agencies, is conducting research on how to meet informed consent requirements while minimizing the impact on response. This paper will summarize a multi-pronged research effort, including six focus groups with data collectors to understand how the pledge is currently communicated and understood by respondents, cognitive interviews with household and establishment respondents (n=20), web interviews with household and establishment respondents (n=30) and an online test of multiple versions of the pledge (n=900). We will also discuss the lessons learned from the process of working with multiple researchers and federal agencies to develop, test and recommended wording within a very short time period.