The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), the trade body, has released a “Member Code of Conduct” that aims to tackle ethical concerns in the research sector and deals with crucial issues like data collection.

In seeking to provide a truly holistic set of industry guidelines, the code’s recommendations cover research participants, internal and external clients, the profession, and the public.

The provisions for “general member conduct” include ensuring that research contributions are voluntary, and that “no misleading or deceptive practices be used in engaging with them”.

Similarly, the ARF asserted that best practices should be used to protect privacy and personally identifiable information. Privacy policies must also be “readily available” and make it clear which organisations are behind any research.

Another central principle is that “members avoid using any harassment or misleading recruitment and sampling techniques when dealing with the public”.

Scott McDonald, CEO/president of the ARF, suggested that such a framework represents sound thinking from a human and corporate perspective alike.

“For an ecosystem such as ours, built upon research, data and analytics, the need to ensure that all are conducting themselves in an ethical and responsible manner, based upon agreed guidelines of behavior, is not only morally correct, it is good business,” he said in a statement.

To make sure standards reach the necessary level, members “should support and/or conduct custom or shared research to determine whether consumers understand the member’s terms of service and data privacy policy,” the ARF stated.

Additionally, they ought to state how and when automated or artificial intelligence systems are being employed, and offer a simple opt out for consumers.

Indeed, researchers need to give people “an easy way to withdraw consent for the collection and use of their data and that members not make any attempts to influence the accuracy of syndicated media research or syndicated sales or consumer data”, the ARF argued.

“Members using location data for research should identify on their website what sources of data are used and provide those targeted with the ability to opt-out of future contacts.”

The code will be rely on a self-regulating “Chain of Trust” when it comes to enforcement. And members that sign up will, within their research departments, be able to use a special ARF logo on marketing materials and correspondence.

A further component of the “Chain of Trust” is that ARF members will use agencies, suppliers, ad-tech companies and other partners who have also expressed their fealty to the code of conduct “whenever possible”.

Sourced from ARF; additional content by WARC staff