How Informed is Consent? A Field Experiment

How Informed is Consent? A Field Experiment
Discussion Paper
Alexandra Avdeenko, Matthias Stelter
Centre for Economic Policy Research, 1 February 2022
Abstract
In an increasingly data-driven world, data protection and the requirement of obtaining informed consent rapidly gain relevance. The intention is to protect data holders. Yet, is consent provided by data holders truly informed? In the context of empirical research, the requirement for informed consent can affect external validity and data quality of the evidence generated. Conducting a survey with 7,752 potential participants in rural Pakistan, we find that respondents are insufficiently informed about important aspects related to their consent. Experimentally changing the consent process, we find that showing an animated video has a negative impact on respondent’s understanding, but additionally engaging them in an interactive dialogue about the informational text significantly improves understanding. Even though we find effects on levels of understanding, we do not find meaningful changes in consent rates and non-response behavior indicating no adverse effects on the quality of the survey.

Editor’s note: The Centre for Economic Policy Research’s network of Research Fellows and Affiliates includes economists conducting research on issues affecting the European economy.

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