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When Confidentiality is Broken

Posted on March 19, 2007

Joel W. Grube (bio) talks about an incident when confidentiality was not maintained.


We've had very, very few incidents in our research where there have been problems. About the only one I can think of off hand is we were doing a telephone survey, this is years ago now, on drinking and driving, adolescents and drinking and driving, and the interviewer in the middle of this interview was asking about how often in the last year have you driven after you've had too much to drink. And apparently the father was on the telephone, on the extension phone, and went ballistic and so there was a whole series of things that we had to do. And first of all, this was a random digidial survey so we didn't know where this household was.

And the interviewing staff had to go through a long process of trying to track down, long I mean like an hour, of trying to find this household and then getting in touch with somebody who could go to make sure that this, that there weren't serious repercussions to this child.

What this does tell you is that particularly with telephone surveys although confidentiality is one of your key, key issues, there are sometimes things will happen that you can't control.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher in March 2006.


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