Online Surveys = Ongoing Insights

Privacy for Survey Respondents

Privacy for Survey Respondents

SurveyMonkey has collected literally hundreds of millions of responses to surveys. People who fill out SurveyMonkey surveys often ask us whether their survey responses are truly anonymous and safe from prying eyes. After all, sometimes respondents are only comfortable with providing honest feedback if they know that their responses can’t be traced back to them!

The first thing to know is that surveys are set up by a survey creator and not by SurveyMonkey. SurveyMonkey provides the tools for creators to configure their surveys how they want. This includes allowing them to collect strictly anonymous responses, or to choose to identify their respondents.

If survey creators want to identify respondents, they could of course just ask who you are (e.g. ask you for your name and contact information using a demographic survey question type). We also offer the option for surveys to collect respondent IP addresses or email addresses. While an IP address will not necessarily disclose your identity, IP addresses are often indicative of a geographic location.

If survey creators already have an email list, they can collect responses using our “email collector.” Email collectors are a way of inviting survey responses by sending the survey link directly to their list of email addresses. Each invitee receives an email with a personalized link to the survey, which allows the creator to match up an email address with the responses. Creators can also choose not to perform this match up, but still track which email addresses have completed the survey, so that they can re-send the survey to anyone who has not replied.

So, how do you know if your IP address or email address is being collected “in the background”? The best thing to do is contact the survey creator, or the person who invited you to take the survey, directly!

Oh, and SurveyMonkey never peeks at your responses unless the survey creator gives us permission to. We give all the control to the survey creator and they determine how public or private to make their survey results. But, we also expect survey creators to abide by our Terms of Use, so if you think a survey creator is doing something they shouldn’t be, like claiming their survey is anonymous and it isn’t or trying to gather sensitive personal information (such as credit card numbers), please let us know at

For more information, see: Are my survey responses anonymous and secure?

This is the second article in a series on privacy and policies, written by Stuart Loh, SurveyMonkey in-house counsel in charge of privacy and policies. Stuart’s first article covered “Privacy for Survey Creators.”

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  • Lloyd Austin

    The RIGHT thing to do is to put indicators on the surveys CLEARLY showing if IP addresses, email information, etc. is being collected. Now that I know I cannot trust your forms marked “ANONYMOUS”, I will no longer be completing them. I will also be passing this information on to others that believe they are participating ANONYMOUSLY and actually may not be. Why not balance the scales? You allow the sender to decide if they want to collect information or not, so why not let the respondent know if his/her information is being collected? Why not conduct business in a fair manner. This is very discouraging, as many universities and businesses depend on your forms. If people stop responding to “ANONYMOUS” surveys, it will not do you or researchers using your service any good. Researchers must be trusted. – Disappointed and no longer inspired to create my own survey.

    • kaytek

      Hi Lloyd, we’re sorry you feel this way but as Stuart pointed out in the post, it’s up to the survey creator to set the privacy options and their responsibility to explain this clearly to their respondents. If you’re unsure about a survey you receive, the best thing to do is to contact the survey creator directly before you take their survey.

      • Jim Elvis

        I know this is an old thread, but I’m with Lloyd. You should be willing to tell me if the survey creator is being disingenuous by not disclosing whether they are collecting info on me. Otherwise, how are you anything more than an abettor?

        • KTsurveymonkey

          That’s a fair point Jim, and it’s a tricky subject. As customers, we do have to protect their privacy and the settings on their survey. Of course, we can certainly see how as a respondent, it would feel necessary to know this information. We have to hope that the survey creator will be honest when providing you with these details!

          • sarah auger

            But as a potential customer, I would like survey monkey to provide this information to the respondent so that they feel comfortable answering the questions. Also, you can maybe give that option to the survey creator to have this information posted by survey monkey as part of the survey– a win-win.

          • MFsurveymonkey

            Hi Sarah,

            We do not offer this option just yet, but it’s definitely a good idea. With that said, we truly value customer feedback and we are always looking for improving our tool so I will definitely pass on your request to the product development team and hopefully this is something that will be implemented in the future.


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