Nothing is free

“You Must Enable Cookies…

In order to take this survey, you must enable cookies on your browser.  It’s easy to do – just follow these simple instructions.
(Please note: We use cookies in a responsible manner.  Please review our privacy policy for further details…)”

Organizations often use ‘free’ survey tools. The demand message above often show ups when an invitee has tightened down security only permits cookies on very selective sites.

——- From the Survey Site Policy——–

“Cookies” are small text files a website can use to recognize repeat users. uses cookies to recognize visitors and more quickly provide personalized content or grant you unimpeded access to the website.  With cookies enabled, you will not need to fill in password or contact information.

Information gathered through cookies also helps us measure use of our website.  Cookie data allow us to track usage behavior and compile data that we can use to improve the site.   This data will be used in aggregate form; no specific users will be tracked.

Generally, cookies work by assigning a unique number to the user that has no meaning outside of the Web site that he or she is visiting.   You can easily turn off cookies.  Most browsers have a feature that allows the user to refuse cookies or issues a warning when cookies are being sent.   However, our site will not function properly without cookies.  Enabling cookies ensures a smooth, efficient visit to our website. ”


In summary, companies often provide free or low cost online services because they can collect information about individuals, then aggregate and use/sell that information. Google has made a fortune on our collective clicks. For many, that is not a concern. We recommend providing that information in very limited situations. And, professionally, encourage others to do the same.

Take, for example, an opinion survey from a charitiable organization, the survey provider most likely classifies both the organization and the survey. It then receives a valuable picture of both the network of respondent donors and their characteristics. Over time, the cookies permit them to summarize behaviour of individuals participating in multiple networks and surveys. Think of the value of one survey, then multiply it by many, many donor surveys. Cross-referencing and comparative analysis is both a breeze and quite lucrative for survey provider.

The bottom line, there is likely to be a growing minority of online donors who may not respond. An organization gets some value from the free survey but misses some participants and may not get full value from some donors. These would happily provide personal information directly to the charitable organization, but not to a third party.

Many may not mind providing personal profiles which do not carry personal names. The precise name is immaterial; its the behaviour patterns and socio-economic status that matter.

We always encourage organizations to be very specific about information collected and its use. And to collect as little as possible or none at all.


About mielniczuk

Community, systems, design, collaboration, change, evidence, Intelligent Accountability(c)
This entry was posted in Accountability, Data Governance. Bookmark the permalink.

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