22nd May, 2014
Following on from our blog exploring implicit research in the mobile research era, we considered it prudent to explore physiological privacy when contributing data to a study. Whilst the implicit data collection via our smart devices will undoubtedly deliver enhanced insight for researchers, where should the participant be able to decline access to their personal data; moreover, does physiological response data warrant a different approach to data privacy than that of its digital counterpart?
The data derived from implicit research techniques is utilised for the same purpose as the explicit: to gain insight into consumer action. The implicit data captures a different range of data, covering participant physiological reactions to researcher questioning. The data captured here provides critical insight into consumer subconscious reflected in eye movement, blood pressure, sweat glands and skin temperature, to name but a few monitoring metrics. Monitoring these subtle changes to participant physiology presents an entirely new dataset for analysis. Though gathered through non-invasive methods the implicit behaviour exposed throughout the collection of data can extend researcher insight into consumer behaviours, as well as any emotional inclinations modifying participant behaviour traits.
The physiological data provided is spontaneous: you cannot help it. The reality of implicit research techniques and analysis is designed and orchestrated to capture the subconscious reactions to a given situation. However, this may provoke unwelcome reactions in some situations where individuals are exposed to their previously unknown physiological reactions to certain stimuli. The detected values placed on implicit data can vary. There are levels of ‘implicitness’. The data retrieved from an individual utilising a mobile differs entirely to the implicit information mined through social media streams – just as delivery of the data to the researcher confirms the need for privacy for the participant, as with any other form of research.
We are all in some way participants in the implicit data collection system. As mentioned, implicit data mined through social media is open to those with the resources to analyse it. In this sense, the social media mining of implicit data is again different from the immediate capture of implicit physiological reactions to stimuli. Data is still generated for the system, but in the latter is not designed to be accessed or analysed unless specifically captured. Hence, we consider privacy. Where the data of social media networking is spewed forth, where content is generated in a self-serving sense of both explicit and implicit information, the subtle information gained on individual participants through physical analysis provides contrast through non-invasive, restrained notions of core emotion that can be further contextualised on a humanist scale.
Removing the human from the equation is difficult. The avalanche of data we consume provides unfettered insight into thousands of research situations. Whilst the physiologically implicit data does not require additional data protection, mediating the effectiveness of the data should remain a prime concern of social and market researchers. Mobile research presents the opportunity for hybrid research that explores the middle ground between explicit and implicit: providing explicit qualitative data in a mobile relay, whilst being simultaneously recorded through the device to allow researchers to note implicit physical reactions (as well as gauge implicit qualitative feedback) is one method. Another is searching for the explicit data being generated and seeking to engage the potential participant in their own data generation system to ascertain what implicit data they provide.
For either system to work, the focus must remain on insight. Providing participants the motivation to provide their privacy, their data and their insight ensures the systemic paradigms we operate within can be successfully challenged to enhance the future of market research.