(Washington, DC) The Marketing Research Association (MRA) today defended the need for confidentiality in marketing research today in response to a government agency’s demand for marketing research information from a tobacco company. MRA feared that the confidentiality of personally identifiable information of research participants and possible proprietary and trade secret information on research processes could be violated by compliance with the agency’s demands.

A sweeping demand from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on June 17, 2010 to Phillip Morris USA, Inc. for marketing research documents raised concerns with MRA. The FDA specifically requested that Phillip Morris produce “[a]ll documents referring or relating to marketing research,” specifically “any documents relating to consumers' concerns, beliefs, perceptions, understandings, thoughts or impressions.”

MRA’s General Counsel, LaToya Rembert-Lang, informed the FDA that MRA understood the importance of pursuing an investigation in Phillip Morris’s truth-in-advertising practices, but that, “the integrity of the survey and opinion research profession is in jeopardy when such broad sweeping mandates run counter to the standards of the survey and opinion research profession to protect the confidentiality of all research data.”

“Any request that may potentially identify a participant or release a participant’s information without their express consent runs counter to the ethical standards and integrity of the survey and opinion research profession,” said Rembert-Lang. “In a business where public apathy runs high and data is the main focus of the business, integrity and assurances are central to maintaining quality standards in the survey and opinion research process.”

MRA informed the FDA that it will assist in providing further education regarding the survey and opinion research profession and process – and will continue to advocate and educate regulators and lawmakers about the ethical standards and policies of the survey and opinion research profession.

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