Earlier this year, the research industry was solicited by the Congressional House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection to provide information on consumer privacy for a Congressional hearing. The hearing, held on May 8th in Washington, DC, was entitled, "Opinion Surveys: What Consumers Have to Say About Information Privacy," and was the fourth in a series of hearings by the Subcommittee on information privacy.

During the hearing, the Subcommittee indicated that it was their intent to learn the public's concern through research - to use research as the conduit to learn about consumer privacy. The subcommittee further noted the credibility of research and its usefulness in this arena. In turn, the panel, consisting of research industry members Frank Newport (Gallup), Harrison Rainie (Pew Internet & American Life Project), Dr. Alan Westin (Columbia University), Humphrey Taylor (The Harris Poll) and Sandra Bauman (Wirthlin Worldwide), stressed current consumer concerns over identity theft and the privacy of their financial and health-related information.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a federal agency that has long been examining the issue of Internet privacy, has often cited existing survey data as evidence of the of the privacy concerns of the public. This hearing was yet another governmental legitimization of the industry and a public declaration of a vital role the industry can play with lawmakers/policymakers. Through research, the industry can leverage our usefulness to the benefit of our other government affairs activities.

Photo: Abstract inspiration, by MRA member Alice Irvan