How to Keep your Privacy & Anonymity Taking Surveys

How to Keep your Privacy & Anonymity Taking Surveys

Have you ever started taking a paid survey and stopped (or thought about stopping), because it was asking not only very personal questions, but also wanted to precisely know who you are?  I know I have.

In addition to asking very personal information, almost every survey company will ask for personally identifying information.   While it’s fun to make money taking surveys,  it’s not worth losing my anonymity and privacy for a few bucks.  How can you and I prevent losing our privacy and still take surveys in private? Can you take a survey privately and still get paid?

The problem is that survey companies want to prevent fraud and duplication. They also want to make sure that their respondents are being truthful about who they say they are.  The client companies are paying a lot of money to target their survey, and this diligence helps to insure the integrity of the sample.

Survey companies will ask for your full name, your address, phone number, along with your email address. They of course will ask several demographic questions, like your age, number of children, etc. Then they will verify that information against 3rd party databases.

So is this a big deal? What is the danger? There are at least five identity pitfalls: Sold, Spammed Stolen, SSL, and maybe, Socialism:

1)    Sold: If you’re dealing with a reputable company with a solid privacy practice, they won’t sell or exchange your information, or use if for marketing purposes, but you should always check the privacy policy of the survey company.  Despite the policy, it’s always possible your personal profile could leak out. But if you can register “anonymously” then it’s much safer if the data is sold, exchanged, or leaked out. 
2)    Spammed. There are pseudo research firms out there. They are more about spamming you both with pseudo surveys and promoting products, instead of offering pure research surveys.  If they’re willing to do this, maybe you’ll be getting some phone calls and junk (snail) mail as well. Fortunately you can usually opt-out or get the email spammer blacklisted.
3)    Stolen. Most importantly, there are many reputable companies that have had their data, (and your personal information) stolen, either through outside hacking or from an unscrupulous employee.  Go with a company that allows anonymous registration and takes steps to secure their data from hackers.
4)    SSL. Secure socket layers, known by the little padlock in the browser, or  “https” in the address bar, insures the transmission of your survey won’t be eavesdropped. Most but not all survey vendors offer SSL.
5)    “Socialism.” OK, I had to make it work with an “S”, but if you believe that big government might be (someday) getting their noses into databases it shouldn’t be, violating individual’s privacy, maybe it’s a good idea to participate only in “anonymous” online surveys.

So how else can you protect yourself? What can you do to make money online taking surveys without losing your identity? Here’s a short list:

1) Don’t use a fake name.  There might be some paid or points based surveys that wont’ ask for your name, but that is probably rare.  Your first and last name is probably very common so it usually isn’t a problem to give just your first and last name, as long as you don’t provide your mailing address, phone number, etc.  If you want cash payments, it’s not a good idea to fudge your name if you’re going to receive a Paypal payment or check.  You’d have to have a bank account with a fake name and that’s a tough thing to do and probably illegal.

2) Use an anonymous email address, like a yahoo, gmail, or hotmail address, which is not tied to a public profile that identifies you any further (e.g. a yahoo or facebook profile).

3) Don’t use a proxy.  Proxies disguise your computer’s IP but are usually readily detected, and many survey companies prohibit their use, or won’t pay you if they detect an anonymous proxy. Besides, to my knowledge, there isn’t any kind of look-up of personal identities based on IP addresses. IP addresses change frequently anyway.

4) Block 3rd party cookies in your browser. This keeps companies from sharing personal data from each other’s websites. If you come across a survey or a GPT (“get paid to”) site that requires you keep 3rd party cookies on, not only for sign-up (probably for affiliate commissions) but for taking surveys, I would stay away–that scares me from a privacy standpoint.

5)  Use a company that allows anonymous survey sign-ups or registrations, and doesn’t ask for your address, phone number, date of birth, like They use the help of 3rd party companies like Paypal to verify user identities and prevent sign-up duplication, without pinpointing your identity.

6) Finally, if you’ll accept “points” instead of cash, you might be able to find a survey company that allows you to register without providing personally identifying information, (except an email address) but relies on a third party, like a points and incentive vendor, to take and verify your personal information. This separates the personal identity from the personal information.  As long as the “points vendor” can be trusted to not allow duplicate registrations, the survey company might be satisfied.