Understanding Society Scientific Conference 2019 - , University of Essex

How do respondents decide whether to consent to data linkage?

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Day:Tue 2 Jul
  • Annette Jäckle, University of Essex

In this paper we examine how respondents process the request for consent to data linkage. The existing literature documents large differences in consent rates between data linkage domains, that respondents change their mind about consent over time, and that respondents are much less willing to give consent in online surveys than when asked face-to-face. Not much is however known about how respondents process this request and what determines their decision. We use data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study Innovation Panel, a mixed-mode probability sample of households in Great Britain (n~2,600) to test hypotheses about the determinants of consent to link to government administrative tax records. The hypotheses are derived from the literature on how people make choices, the literature on cognitive aspects of survey methodology, and findings from in-depth qualitative interviews. We examine the prevalence of different ways in which respondents might process the consent request, such as rational assessment of the costs and benefits of consent versus heuristic decisions based on trust or default behaviours. We then examine what determines how well respondents understand the data linkage request, and the relationship between how well people understand the request, how well they think they understand, and whether they actually give consent. We further examine the role of privacy and data security concerns, and to what extent these can be over-ridden by trust in the organisations involved in the data linkage. Finally, we examine whether respondents process consent questions differently in a web survey than in a face-to-face survey.