The main difference between confidentiality and anonymity is that, in confidentiality, only the researcher knows the identities of the participants whereas, in anonymity, not even the researcher knows the identity of the participants.
Confidentiality and anonymity are two essential terms in the phenomenon of data collection and data management that involve public participation. The two terms of confidentiality and anonymity are used interchangeably, which is wrong. Hence, these two words need to be distinguished, especially in research related studies involving human participants.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Confidentiality
– Definition, Identity, Research
2. What is Anonymity
– Definition, Identity, Research
3. What are the Similarities Between Confidentiality and Anonymity
– Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Confidentiality and Anonymity
– Comparison of Key Differences
Anonymity, Confidentiality, Research
What Does Confidentiality Mean
Confidentiality means that the participants can be identified or traced by the researcher, but their identities are not revealed to those outside the study. Hence, the results and the participants’ information can be linked and traced by the researcher or those who are involved in the specific study. However, it is only the researcher who knows this information. Only the outcome of the findings will be available to outsiders.
Here, the participants’ personal information is linked to their data such as ID, date of birth, emails, etc. Through this, their information separately stored. Likewise, confidentiality is ensured properly through proper data management and data security.
To ensure data security, the researcher should follow data security measures such as password protecting data management, locked file cabinets, encryption when sending information over the internet, etc. The researcher should also destroy the data securely after the completion of the research/study. Moreover, the strictness of confidentiality normally increases with the degree of sensitivity of the information provided by the participants, and with the degree of vulnerability of the research/study subject.
Thus, the link to the participant’s information and the final results of the research study is known to the researcher, but the terms of confidentiality agreement limit the third parties knowing this connection or the participant’s personal information and the results. Both qualitative and quantitative research studies use confidentiality in data collection.
What Does Anonymity Mean
Anonymity means none involved in the research study have access to information and identity of the participants. In other words, not even the researcher can know the identities of the participants. Thus, in such studies, the researcher cannot collect personal identification information from the participants.
Therefore, personal identification information such as names, ID numbers, photographs, date of births, phone numbers, IP addresses, etc. are not collected in studies that use anonymity. Consequently, there is no means of tracking the results to the participant’s information.
This type of research studies is done in cases where overall output is needed on a specific topic, product, service etc. In such occasions, there is no necessity to match the results to the participants.
Similarities Between Confidentiality and Anonymity
- Both Confidentiality and Anonymity are vital terms in professional scenarios such as collecting personal data and statistics in research studies, case works, where public engagement is needed.
- Hence, both guarantee the safety of personal information of the participants in a more secure basis where that information is not leaked to third parties.
- Moreover, whether the study is anonymous or confidential, it is necessary to inform participants about what information will be collected from them and how their identities will be protected. This will assure the participants that their privacy is protected and ensured.
Difference Between Confidentiality and Anonymity
Confidentiality in a research study is when the researcher knows the personal data of the participants, but their identities are not revealed to those outside the study whereas anonymity in a research study is when none, not even the researcher, knows the personal data of the participants. Thus, this is the main difference between confidentiality and anonymity.
The identity of the participants can be traced by the researcher in studies with confidentiality whereas not even the researcher can trace identities of the participants since they are not collected in studies with anonymity. Hence, this is another difference between confidentiality and anonymity.
Types of research and surveys that use confidentiality are interviews, questionnaires, over the phone research studies, medical research studies, etc. These include both qualitative and quantitative research studies. Types of research and surveys that use anonymity are online surveys (not all), general comment studies and interviews; these are mostly quantitative studies. So, this is also a difference between confidentiality and anonymity.
When describing a data collection and data management procedures for research involving human participants, knowing the difference between confidentiality and anonymity is vital. The main difference between confidentiality and anonymity is that, in confidentiality, only the researcher knows the identities of the participants whereas, in anonymity, not even the researcher knows the identity of the participants.