Diane Bowers, President of CMOR, submitted the following testimony on June 22, 1993 at a Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee hearing on the Privacy for Consumers and Workers Act (S. 984):
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, my name is Diane K. Bowers.
I am president of the Council for Marketing and Opinion Research (CMOR). We appreciate the opportunity to submit this statement addressing S. 984, the "Privacy for Consumers and Workers Act."
CMOR is a coalition of research associations, survey and polling organizations, and manufacturers representing all segments of the research industry from research providers to research buyers. CMOR was established in the fall of 1992 to speak on behalf of the entire marketing and opinion research industry on issues of respondent cooperation and government affairs.
Mr. Chairman, we applaud you for addressing workplace privacy issues. You and Representative Williams have identified problems that clearly warrant attention. As drafted, however, S. 984 would undermine the ability of government, university and private researchers to ensure the accuracy and quality of survey research data. We strongly oppose the bill in its current form.
Public opinion polling and other survey research relies heavily on telephone interviews. Supervisory monitoring of telephone interviews enables the companies conducting the research to ensure the accuracy and quality of their data. This function cannot be served if supervisory monitoring must be limited to a few hours a week, if interviewers must be told when their calls will be monitored, and if respondents must be told that the interviews are being monitored.
This is precisely what S. 984, in its current form, would do.
Section 5 would prohibit a research organization from monitoring interviewers (other than the newest employees) through "telephone service observation" or other electronic monitoring for more than 2 hours per week, and long-time employees could not be monitored at all.
Section 4 would require that interviewers be given advance notice of the hours and days that any monitoring would occur. Sec. 4(b). It also would require that respondents be informed that the call is being monitored. Sec. 4(e). Additionally, anyone conducting telephone research for a Federal agency would have to offer respondents the opportunity not to participate in view of the fact that the call might be monitored. Sec. 4(f).
Dr. J. Ann Selzer, the former Director of the Iowa Poll, has stated that these requirements would make it impossible for researchers to maintain the "stringent quality control" that is indispensable to "first-rate survey research." Frank Brown, the president of MarketSearch Corporation in Columbia, SC, spoke for survey research organizations around the country when he stated that S. 984 "would seriously jeopardize telephone survey research." The reasons are obvious:
If survey research organizations are unable to monitor interviewers whenever they are conducting research, they cannot ensure that questions are being asked properly and that answers are being properly recorded, or evaluate the study as a whole, including the general tone of the responses to the questionnaire.
If interviewers must be told when monitoring is being conducted, they inevitably will be more cautious and conscientious at those times than at others, thus defeating the control function of the monitoring. We are aware of no comparable requirement that employees in other contexts be given such specific notice that they are being observed.
If respondents are told that the calls are being monitored, this information -- which is wholly gratuitous and amounts to "static" -- is bound to make at least some respondents less willing to participate and thereby compromise the quality of the population sample.
The additional requirement that Federal agencies affirmatively invite respondents to "opt out" of a survey would cripple the ability of the Labor Department, the Commerce Department, the Federal Trade Commission and other agencies to collect important research.
Eminent academic researchers also have expressed their strong opposition to S. 984. Dr. Stanley Presser of the University of Maryland, who is the President of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, has stated that S. 984 would "impair the ability of both public and private decisionmakers to obtain high-quality information" about public attitudes and opinions "on a wide range of subjects.
Dr. Norman N. Bradburn, the director of research for the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and Dr. John M. Kennedy, director of the Center for Survey Research at the University of Indiana, have expressed similar concerns. Dr. Bradburn has warned that S. 984 threatens many government surveys and "would do great harm to the fundamental statistics upon which the Congress and the Administration rely for policy information."
Four leading public opinion researchers -- Field Research Corporation, The Gallup Organization, Louis Harris & Associates, Inc., and The Roper Organization -- have sent each Member of this subcommittee a joint communication stating their strong opposition to the bill as drafted. (See Attachment A). Indeed, letters opposing the bill have been sent to individual members of the subcommittee by a wide variety of public opinion polling and survey research organizations and professionals, including some identified above. (See Attachment B).
Mr. Chairman, survey research organizations and other employers should provide their employees with general notice that they may be subject to electronic monitoring, and they should describe the purposes for which the monitoring may be conducted. But it is unreasonable to address the privacy concerns that underlie S. 984 in a manner that would severely impair government and private survey research, which the bill as currently drafted would do.
ATTACHMENT A: TEXT OF WESTERN UNION OPINIONGRAM BY LEADING PUBLIC OPINION RESEARCHERS OPPOSING S. 984
June 21, 1993
To the members of the Subcommittee on Employment and Productivity:
As leading public opinion researchers in the United States, we strongly oppose S. 984, the "Privacy for Consumers and Workers Act," scheduled to be heard by the subcommittee on June 22. As drafted, S. 984 would impose restrictions on supervisory monitoring of telephone interviews that would cripple our ability to ensure the accuracy and quality of polling and other survey data relied upon by government and private decisionmakers alike. S. 984 should be rejected unless these unnecessary and unwarranted restrictions are eliminated.
Field Research Corporation, Mervin D. Field, chairman The Gallup Organization,
James K. Clifton, President Louis Harris & Associates, Inc., Humphrey Taylor,
President, COO The Roper Organization, Harry W. O'Neill, Vice Chairman
Dr. Norman M. Bradburn, Director of Research, National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago
John A. Bunge, President, LEGAL MARKETING RESEARCH INC.
Veme B. Churchill, Chairman and CEO, MARKET FACTS
Wesley R. Peters, President, DIMENSION RESEARCH, INC.
Dr. John M. Kennedy, Director of the Center for Survey Research at the University of Indiana
Dr. J. Ann Selzer, SELZER BODDY, INC., formerly Director of the Iowa Poll
Dr. Stanley Presser, Director of the University of Maryland Survey Research Center and the Joint University of Maryland/University of Michigan Program in Survey
Methodology, and President of the American Association for Public Opinion Research
Joseph A. Hunt, President, WESTAT
Michael Kenyon, President, PROJECTIONS INC.
John Berrigan, President, National Analysts, Inc.
Paul A. Frattaroll, President, JRP Marketing Research Services, Inc.
BJ. McKenzie, President, Market Dimensions Inc.
Fred B. Soulas, President, ICR Survey Research Group
Frank K. Brown, President, MarketSearch Corporation
Ron Lindorf, President, Western Wats Center