There was a collective groan at our agency the morning after Census night - August 9th, 2016.
“THE ABS CENSUS SITE HAS BEEN HACKED”!
“THE CHINESE DID IT IN REPSONSE TO COMMENTS BY SWIMMERS AT THE OLYMPICS”!
THERE HAS BEEN “DENIAL OF SERVICE ATTACKS” (Michael McCormack)!
“OVERSEAS CYBER ATTACKS” (David Kalisch)!
A burgeoning concern was shared amongst us … we knew it wasn’t good news … we all wondered what the long-term impact of this big (OK gargantuan) fail might be. Questions flowed.
How would this “hack attack” impact confidence in research, and heaven forbid, how will this major fail impact people’s willingness to participate in online studies? After all, research relies totally on the willingness of people to participate with good intentions and trust in the process and on researchers protecting the privacy of respondents.
So panic not as that’s not our nature. We spoke to our good friends at GMI and asked if they would conduct a small scale, online (risky given the immediate context, we know) survey to determine the immediate impact of the Census debacle. GMI dutifully obtained a nationally representative sample of 300 respondents: 140 male, 160 female aged 18 years – 65+ years.
The questions were simple.
Has participating in the recent online census negatively impacted on your online behaviours?
The upshot is that email correspondence with government agencies was reportedly and not surprisingly the most negatively impacted. Once upon a time, we all trusted the big institution of government to get it ‘right’. Clearly, those days are over.
17% of the sample reported that their participation in the recent Census had negatively impacted ‘online survey participation’ (31% of these people are aged 35 – 44 years, 24% aged 55 – 64 years). Oh dear ...
But fear not. These same people are still participating in bona fide research that is conducted in a professional manner. Stancombe have continue to run surveys for our clients since Census night. All have been ticking along nicely, a couple completing in a more than timely fashion and thankfully, no issues to report.
So, we will keep a watching brief on the mid to long term implications of the big Census fail and live in hope that the data integrity of the 2016 Census is not compromised.
For now, it seems that while confidence in the government’s ability to ensure cyber security may have taken a battering, we expect confidence in online surveys to bounce back. It’s up to us as an industry to continue to maintain high standards of integrity at all levels.