The security of our participants’ personal information is our highest priority. We take a variety of steps to keep all collected information confidential. The Harvard-affiliated Mass General Brigham Institutional Review Board reviews all of our procedures to ensure compliance with regulations for the storage and sharing of data and to approve all new research projects.
All participant names, addresses, and social security numbers are stored on a highly secure computer system separate from questionnaire responses. The data files used for analysis are labeled with study ID numbers only. Access to identifiable information is restricted to a small, select group of senior staff. Even our researchers do not know the identities of GUTS participants. We will never share participants’ name, addresses, or other identifiable information with anyone who is not part of conducting the study.
For maximum security, we use state-of-the-art digital protection tools to prevent possible intrusions, and our internal network is monitored constantly. Our questionnaire website uses encrypted data transmission to ensure that responses can’t be intercepted as they are sent to our computer servers.
GUTS participants’ data are never stored on portable devices like phones, laptops, or tablets. We have been issued a Certificate of Confidentiality by the federal government, which allows us to refuse to disclose personally identifiable information to anyone not connected to GUTS.
When we collect biological samples, like saliva or semen, we give the samples an entirely new anonymous ID before the samples are sent for analysis, providing an additional level of anonymity.
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