Following yesterday’s riots in Tottenham, the Guardian has launched a survey to seek further information about what happened. It is spun as an attempt to understand why the riots took place following in a rich academic tradition of post-riot interviewing.
If you were in Tottenham, do not fill in the survey.
Here’s the thing: with academic research, there are certain rules surrounding how survey information is used. Before one does a survey, one has to apply for ethical permission and fulfil criteria to make sure that the data stay confidential, with those who provided it remaining completely confidential. This means that research surrounding sensitive issues such as illegal activity can be gathered without putting the participant at risk. On the flip side, it means more honest responses which will help researchers gain a better understanding of the issue. What is collected in academic surveys is completely unidentifiable. It’s research ethics.
The Guardian survey does not do this.
There is no guarantee of confidentiality to be seen. Information which could possibly lead to the arrest of the survey participant or acquaintances with no guarantee of any safeguards. Given that political policing and political sentencing are so prevalent these days, it is not safe to fill in this survey. Given that the phone-hacking scandal has exposed that it is almost commonplace for information to exchange hands between journalists and police, it is not safe to fill in this survey. You may land yourself in trouble. You may land your friends in trouble.
Show solidarity. Stay safe. Do not fill in the survey.