The ARF (Advertising Research Foundation) today announced it has adopted a code of conduct governing ethical research and related data collection by member companies that addresses industry conduct in relation to research participants, internal and external clients, the profession and the public. It is divided into principles governing general member behavior, as well as principles for specific sector research and data collection, such as for online and location-based analytics.
The ARF will look to enforce the code through a cooperative industry system titled the “Chain of Trust.” The self-regulating program will enable members who commit to the values and principles of the code, within their research functions, to display an ARF code logo on correspondence and marketing materials. Additionally, through the “Chain of Trust,” ARF members will agree to use suppliers, agencies and other adtech third parties who have also made commitments to the values expressed in the code of conduct, whenever possible.
“For an ecosystem such as ours built upon research, data and analytics, the need to ensure that all are conducting themselves in an ethical and responsible manner, based upon agreed guidelines of behavior, is not only morally correct, it is good business,” said Scott McDonald, CEO and President of the ARF.
The code outlines responsibilities for general member conduct that includes in part:
· That research participants be engaged voluntarily, that no misleading or deceptive practices be used in engaging with them, that participants should suffer no harm by choosing not to participate and that best practices be used to protect their privacy and PII. Additionally, clear privacy policies must be made readily available, with a clear indication of what research organizations and affiliated parties are conducting the research
· That members provide honest statements of work and contract agreements to clients, and that clients be informed of all quality control and validation KPIs
· That members avoid using any harassment or misleading recruitment and sampling techniques when dealing with the public; that all conduct complies with applicable laws and regulations and that members do not engage in anti-competitive behaviors. Additionally, members will be required to treat PII in strict accordance with their privacy policies and with existing law.
Sector specific principles in the code outline that:
· Members should state when and how they used automated decision or artificial intelligence systems and provide a clear and easy opt-out ability from this
· Researchers provide consumers with an easy way to withdraw consent for the collection and use of their data and that members not make any attempts to influence the accuracy of syndicated media research or syndicated sales or consumer data
· Members using location data for research should identify on their website what sources of data are used and provide those targeted with the ability to opt-out of future contacts.
In development of the code, The ARF looked to build upon existing laws, regulations and codes, where applicable, including GDPR, CCPA, COPPA and HIPAA. Additionally, the document reinforces the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) guidelines for data privacy, the Neuromarketing Science and Business Association (NMBSA) code of ethics for the application of neuroscience in business and ESOMAR’s and the Insights Association’s codes of standards and ethics for market research and data analytics.