6. Information to accompany data collection
It is important that people understand why they are being asked to disclose certain information, and what a public body will use the collected data for. I recommend that an overview of this background information is provided in a short paragraph before the questions are asked. For example, question testing by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) on their interim gender identity standard found that question acceptability increased when people understood that the information was being collected to carry out equalities monitoring.
The ICO guidance on transparency gives further details on the type of information that organisations should consider including when collecting personal data, such as a privacy notice that outlines the basis of consent for processing, retention periods, who might have access to the data and those to whom the data might be disclosed: Transparency | ICO
Sometimes people may be concerned that their answers won't be confidential and some people may not understand why they're being asked for certain information. This can result in a large number of people responding 'prefer not to say' to a question. To encourage high response rates, you should provide more information on why the data is being collected, how the data will be kept secure and confidential, and what it will be used for. Depending on the purpose of data collection, you may want to ask a person's consent to disclose or use the data they have provided for a specific purpose. Again, the ICO have guidance for organisations to consider around consent, and it is recommended that organisations familiarise themselves with this.
For example, a public body could explain:
- Why you are collecting the data
- How the data will be stored (whether anonymously or confidentially), and who will have access to this
- How the data will be used
- Examples of how previous data collections have had a positive impact
For some people, for example trans people, it will be particularly important that there is a legitimate reason for asking their sex, and/or trans status, and whether this information will be disclosed, and what it will be used for. Maintaining an individual's human rights, legal rights and right to privacy is an important consideration. For example, collecting information anonymously, or having explicit consent from an individual to disclose their information would allow potentially sensitive questions to be asked in a way that maintains the legal rights of a person (including a trans person under the Gender Recognition Act 2004).
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