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Protecting research



MRS Policy Unit

Maintaining an active programme of targeted lobbying and representation domestically, in Europe and further afield has enhanced our profile and allowed us to continue to effectively represent the interests of the market, opinion and social research sector.

During this period ongoing advocacy and engagement on regulatory and policy initiatives focused on the implementation of data protection reforms in the UK against the background of the UK’s planned withdrawal from the EU.

Data protection

Building on prior sustained work by MRS on data protection and privacy, we met with the new Commissioner and staff teams at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The meetings allowed MRS to highlight the implications of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for the research sector and underscored our commitment to continue working with the ICO to communicate the broader data regulation and protection messages.
As well as ongoing dialogue we also responded to published consultations by the regulators and responsible ministries. These included:

• ICO consultation on consent under the GDPR

• Department of Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) call for views about the proposed revision of the ePrivacy regime.

Greater data sharing in the public sector will make more effective use of existing data sets. The importance of appropriate ethical and legal safeguards was reflected in our responses:

• joint response (together with the Census and Geodemographics Group (CGG)) to the Cabinet Office on their Better Use of Data Consultation

• direct engagement with the House of Commons Public Bill Committee on the Digital Economy Bill.

Electronic communications

Protection of privacy of individuals from unwanted unsolicited calls is an area in which MRS continues to be active. This is particularly important in light of the negative impact on the sector of sugging (i.e. selling under the guise of research) and frugging (fund raising under the guise of research).

MRS has worked closely with the ICO and other approved regulators through Operation LINDEN. This is a multi-agency group which captures and shares intelligence effectively and promotes coordinated activity to maximise enforcement opportunities against individuals and organisations responsible for breaching electronic communications legislation. During this year the ICO also issued its first enforcement fine for sugging, a visible and tangible recognition of the harm caused by this misleading practice.

Another key area was our engagement with telecommunications operators implementing various “call blocking” systems to allow customers to block or divert unwanted calls to a “junk” voicemail. MRS worked to ensure that systems had suitable safeguards and processes and supported member organisations when undertaking research exercises.

Trading and business environment

Policy engagement occurs across the UK and covers devolved matters. We contributed to consultations on changes to procurement in Wales and to a UK-wide consultation on proposals for extending protection for micro businesses in non-regulated sectors.

International

EFAMRO

EFAMRO, the European Research Federation, represents the interests of research businesses to the European Parliament, European Commission and Council of Europe. MRS has been a member since 2006, and since 2009 has undertaken all standards, policy and public affairs activities on behalf of the Federation.

EFAMRO continued to lead representations on the proposed GDPR (working with ESOMAR). Activities included:

• development and circulation of a GDPR Advocacy Toolkit for use by all national associations to engage meaningfully with their national governments

• participation in EU Regulators Policy Workshops on behalf of EU-wide research sector

• dialogue on the approach to enhanced EU selfregulation against the background of EU-wide data protection reforms.

Global Research Business Network

The Global Research Business Network (GRBN) of which MRS is a founding partner, committed to effective sub-committee working on priority areas across all organisations and built on its existing profile in the sector.

Activities included:

• consultation on updated ESOMAR-GRBN Mobile Research Guideline

• launch of GRBN news website with a dedicated page for each regional federation

• endorsement of the Building Public Trust Engagement Programme, that seeks to impact on participation rates, as well as data quality, speed of delivery and efficiency, by regional federations and national associations

• refinement of the Global Participant Engagement Initiative to ensure it continues as an action – and results-based initiative by setting ambitious goals for the programme

• launch with the Boston Consulting Group of the ROI from Insight self-assessment tool.