Collecting personal data with Anonymous Surveys!

8 min readJul 22, 2019


Has a business ever asked you sensitive questions that made you uncomfortable?
How would it feel knowing that you shared some of your most intimate feelings in an online survey that random strangers had access to?
A gazillion thoughts go across your mind.
“What if they judge me?”
“Would the sanctity of my privacy be lost?”
“Will the answers I shared be leaked to anyone?”
“Would I get trolled in the unforgiving place called the Internet where my details and the things I shared be mocked and paraded for everyone to see?”
These are rational thoughts a respondent will have when they come across a questionnaire that asks them uncomfortable questions.
Also, do all surveys require the name and other details of the respondent?
What’s the answer in such circumstances?
Anonymous Surveys it is!
In Anonymous surveys, the respondent’s identities are private. There are other factors like age, gender, the product used, demography, etc., that can be used to analyze the data so that marketers can work on it.
When do you create anonymous surveys?
Not all situations warrant anonymous surveys. Most of the times, people don’t mind sharing their details for surveys whose results they want to see. There are situations where people will be extremely hesitant to share the thoughts they have on a topic. Below are some of the reasons-

Respondent is afraid there might be a backlash

The person answering the survey might be hesitant to share their honest feelings if their survey is on a superior. It could be feedback about one’s manager, principal, or teacher. An employee doesn’t want to be in the bad books of a manager, nor does a student want to earn the wrath of their teacher. This is when ensuring anonymity will be the only way to conduct surveys that are fair and has the integrity to it.

Personal & uncomfortable questions

Questions on sensitive areas such as medical issues, psychological issues, divorce are skipped altogether. And that is understandable since most people don’t even share or discuss such personal information, even their friends. Expecting them to be comfortable enough to answer on such topics to a company is almost unreasonable. But you can take off that feeling of inhibition when you give them the mask of anonymity. They don’t mind sharing their deepest troubles to a bunch of forms online.

When the law dictates

There are governmental regulations in areas where you are not supposed to collect specific data. For example, US HIPAA regulations want business establishments, including hospitals, to keep the privacy of patients. In such cases, you are not legally allowed to conduct surveys, and taking anonymous surveys is the only way you can make it possible.

Benefits of Anonymous Surveys

There are situations when anonymous surveys are not required where sharing the respondent’s name, or other details might not put them in a delicate position. In the same way, there are many situations where an anonymous survey is the only way in which you can get honest responses which will be highly helpful for your business. Below are some of the benefits of creating anonymous surveys:

  • Respondents can fearlessly answer questions in a survey without being judged or singled out
  • Perfect for employee surveys which ask for feedback on their managers
  • Respondents will be open to answer deep and personal questions without any repercussions
  • Ideal in settings where feedback about their colleagues are sought
  • It ensures the accuracy of the data as well as gives you actionable responses as there is no fear of reprisal
  • Even an inherently shy person will provide answers without feeling awkward
  • Using them in organizations makes the employees feel respected
  • Establishes trust between the respondent and the business
  • Expect better response rates
  • Higher response rates when respondents know that the results will stir the survey conductors into action

Setting the surveys to ‘Anonymous’ and letting the respondents know even before they start the survey that their details are not necessary will establish trust. Expect honest responses when respondents know that their answers won’t be traced back to them.

Best practices for anonymous surveys

Anonymous surveys are different from normal surveys because there is an extra element involved it. What is that? The fact that you want to ask uncomfortable questions that people might not always want to say out loud. This is where you need to follow a few best practices so that you do not ward off the prospective respondent. Below are some of the best practices that your business can follow when answering anonymous surveys.

Ask fewer sensitive questions in the beginning

When users know that sensitive questions will be asked, they are already on high alert mentally, despite knowing that their details will not be shared. You need to make the respondent comfortable so that they don’t back out of the survey due to fear.
It is best to start with light questions that do not necessitate them having to provide answers for personal questions. It will make it easy to build trust, which will go a long way in them answering questions openly.
In the initial set of questions, if the respondent is provided with less personal questions, they are more likely to provide credible answers to such questions in the later stages of the survey.

Disclose your privacy policy

It is advisable to have a separate privacy policy when you are sending out surveys that will be anonymously answered. This should be displayed before the start of the survey. The privacy policy should contain the following details:

  • The reason behind going anonymous.
  • The purpose for which the survey is being conducted.
  • The target audience of the survey
  • What you intend to do with the results of the survey
  • If you will be sharing the results with anyone?
  • Assure the respondents that their privacy is guaranteed.
  • All of these measures guarantee the respondents that their details will not be extracted or disclosed in any way, and this will reflect in the answers you would receive.

Tell who you are

While having to introduce yourself again in the channels that you reach out to your potential respondents might seem like a waste of time, we explain why it’s necessary. There are chances that apart from your intended audience, the link to your surveys might get spread to different forums. These people might not necessarily know who you are, even if they are a part of your target audience.

Introducing yourself on the survey as well helps people to establish who you are so that they don’t have to verify if the survey is from a registered business entity that is collecting valid data and not to steal data. Respondents might also be wary of sharing their personal information in surveys that come from anonymous accounts.

Don’t use custom variables

When you are sending anonymous surveys, it makes sense not to include questions using which someone can identify the respondent. Don’t use custom data or custom variable, which is identifiable when you send the survey. Custom variables are aspects like home address, IP address, or any other personal information that can be used to ascertain someone.

Review the questions. Again

While we expect that no business will include columns like Name, Address, and phone number when conducting anonymous surveys, there are chances that we might slip in an irrelevant question wrongly. Send the question to different stakeholders and ask them to respond to the survey so that we can confirm that there are no questions that uncover the respondent’s identity or contains irrelevant questions.

Write clear questions

Do not use ambiguous language when conducting anonymous surveys. There are high chances that your question gets misinterpreted, which might lead to unexpected results that are totally beyond the purview and intention of the questioner. There is no way to reach out to the respondent to clarify, as well. Make sure that the questions you post are worded correctly, there are no typos and is easily understandable even for the common man.

Send them back the results

While the surveys you conduct are anonymous, you can still send the results to the same email list. The respondents will be happy to know the results and might even be curious to discover the various responses. The ones who didn’t respond to the survey will get excited, seeing the results, and will be eagerly waiting for the next one to be a part of it. If you don’t want to send the results to everyone but only for the respondents, then ensure that you give them the information on how to access the results in the initial survey itself.

How to collect details even if you are asking personal questions? The reason behind conducting anonymous surveys is to ensure the privacy of participants since they might not want to disclose their details when answering questions that might affect their credibility or puts them in a position of bother. There is only one way you can get details when conducting anonymous surveys- Incentivize them.
Tell your respondents that they are free to go anonymous in their survey and if they don’t mind sharing details, there are gifts, or they might enter a competition where they stand to win a prize.
Also, make sure this is optional. If the respondent does not want to share their details, they are free to do so by skipping the question in the anonymous survey. Also, you need to assure the respondents who fill in their details that it is entirely confidential.


It is not often necessary to know the details of the respondents; the responses can be analyzed based on just the answers. There are times when customers don’t mind sharing their details. But we have also discussed with you circumstances in which it is imperative that you use anonymous surveys.
Anonymous surveys will give you better, honest, and detailed answers since their identities are not revealed. Even though you don’t have details like name, address and email ID, you still have certain types of information like age, gender, product, and more to segment the customers and analyze the data. The responses can be viewed in different formats, either as charts or graphs thus helping you understand them better.

Guest Blogger at SurveySparrow

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Originally published at on July 22, 2019.




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