Verifying Important Data Points

I trust my kids. No really, I do. My oldest is at the age where she spends a lot of time with her friends—getting picked up to go shopping, going out to eat, hanging out at parties, sleepovers—in all cases, she is not at home and not with me. Like I said, I do trust her, but for the sake of my own sanity (and of course her safety), I have taken the necessary steps to verify that she is doing what she says she is doing.

Yes, I take a quick look at the cell phone GPS while she is out, I text to make sure her location matches, and I call her friends’ parents to verify that she is spending the night. Not every time she goes out, but enough. Just so you don’t think I’m snooping on her unawares, my daughter understands perfectly well that I am verifying all these details. I want her to know, and it is good that she knows. Not that she is looking to intentionally deceive, but honestly, weren’t we all kids once? We know the script. Just knowing that someone is checking in—well, that keeps everyone honest. I hope, it also brings her a sense of security, too.

Data is no different, really. In particular, I mean data collected on panelists, participants or respondents.  No, of course you won’t be calling your panelists’ parents or tracking them on GPS, but certain information can and should be verified. Data verification is a key step to GDPR compliance, too.

Data verification sounds well and good, and GDPR expects it, but you might have lingering questions: Why does this data need to be verified? What information should I verify? What kind of verification should be performed with the collected data?

Why does data need to be verified?

First off, it’s a quality issue. You want quality data, reliable data, data you can use. Verification ensures that the information collected and/or stored is accurate. This is especially beneficial because the data will no doubt be used for projections, direction or insights.  Inaccurate data can have severely negative effects and possibly cost implications.

Secondly, it’s a legal issue. Data needs to be verified because of laws, rules or regulations.  For example, if data on minors is being stored, systems need to be in place to verify individuals’ ages or verifying that parental / guardian consent has been obtained. Regulations such as GDPR compliance have specific rules designed to ensure accurate verified data is being stored in the database.

What information should I verify?

This is completely up to any internal quality control procedures in place for your operations.  Many organizations verify and update demographic data every time they come into contact with panelists in their database.  Others have a schedule of verifying data at regular intervals. Either method is acceptable, so long as the procedure is followed carefully. Some major demographic data points to verify are:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Income
  • Education
  • Ethnicity

Actually, any data critical to the company or fielded projects should be verified.  Some verify geographic data, psychographic data and behavioral habits in addition to demographic attributes—all with the purpose of having the most accurate data available at their fingertips.

A word of caution related to psychographic and behavioral attributes; purchase habits change quickly, loyalties adjust and specific usage can fluctuate greatly. Keep these points in mind when collecting or storing psychographic and behavioral data as the shelf-life of the information is very short and would need to be verified at a greater frequency.

What kind of verification should be performed on my data?

Just as there are multiple ways to check on the whereabouts of your children, there are multiple ways to verify panelists’ information. The software package that you use to store or collect data should have the tools readily available to verify any pertinent data. At MSG, we’ve built the ARCS panel management system to allow for custom-defined rules to perform data verification that matches your organizational procedures. Here are a few methods that a software package should feature:

  • Verify key data points before the panelist is entered into the database.
  • Define specific procedures as to exactly what data needs to be verified and how often.
  • Streamline the verification process by updating data each time a panelist is contacted or send specialized surveys to update needed information at regular intervals.

I know you trust your panelists just like I trust my kids, but it doesn’t hurt that they know you are checking in on them. Verifying important data points is not only a wise move for your company, but it is increasingly necessary when it comes to government regulations like GDPR. They are expecting you to take care of this business anyway. It’s an all-around good idea.

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