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Conducting research virtually with participants

When conducting research virtually, there are ethical and security considerations to take into account.

UVic-hosted programs and platforms

The use of UVic-approved and configured programs and platforms (listed below) is the best and easiest way to ensure communications are secure. Using non-UVic versions makes your research vulnerable to security and privacy breaches. UVic-hosted applications are configured to store data inside Canada where possible.

Microsoft Teams and UVic Zoom are probably the best platforms to use when conducting research virtually with human participants. This includes interviews and group discussions.

University Systems and Information Security advises UVic departments and offices about platforms and programs. They provide the Guidance on Virtual Research to the Research Ethics Office.

If you have any questions, please contact UVic Computer Help Desk (if you are a student) or your departmental Desktop Support Person (if you are faculty or staff).

UVic Virtual Private Network (VPN)

When there is no secure WiFi available, researchers and research team members should log-in to the UVic virtual private network (VPN) on their computer or smart phone when using platforms or logging into emails, etc.

VPN is available for all UVic faculty, staff and is recommended if connecting from an unknown or not trusted network. VPN may be required to access some UVic resources. For more information, please visit the University Systems website

Any platform that you use on UVic networks must comply with UVic’s information security policy (IM7800). Compliance with IM7800 will protect confidentiality and security.

UVic Zoom

Zoom is a videoconferencing service offering online real-time sessions with up to 300 people.

  • available for all UVic faculty, staff and students
  • the UVic-hosted version of Zoom has a number of security and privacy features that are not available in the free versions of Zoom
  • if a UVic community member hosts a meeting, they can invite non-UVic attendees
  • UVic has contracted with Zoom to have all content stored on servers inside Canada
  • if you use the UVic version of Zoom, recordings get stored on local computer devices, not in the Zoom cloud
  • if you are using the Zoom transcription feature, the transcription file is written to the same folder as the Zoom recording after the meeting ends
  • the Zoom client performs the recording post-processing

To store these recordings securely for your use, ensure encryption of your computer or storage device. Contact UVic Systems ( or the Protection of Privacy Office for assistance.

When using Zoom to conduct research with participants, you should:

  • familiarize yourself with the platform
  • make sure everyone knows how to use Zoom and can access all its functions
  • inform participants of ways they can protect their privacy on Zoom, including:
    • using a substitute name or a nickname
    • turning off their camera
    • muting their microphone when it is not needed
  • restrict screen sharing to only yourself
  • use a waiting room, which allows you to control who can join the meeting and when
  • use a password so that only people with the password can access the meeting
  • lock the meeting after all invited participants have entered and the meeting has started

To maintain privacy and confidentiality in Zoom meetings, you should:

  • not share the meeting links on social media or public outlets
  • instruct participants to not share the meeting link with anyone
  • not use your Personal Meetings ID (PMI) to host the interview or group discussion

UVic Zoom Transcription

UVic Zoom transcription feature uses third party and is hosted in the USA. If using UVic Zoom for transcription, participants should be told in the consent form that the data resided in the USA and is subject to US Freedom Act.

"Information about you gathered for this research study (state if it includes identifiable information) uses an online program located in the US or a program that can be accessed from the US (name of program). As such, there is a possibility that information about you may be accessed without your knowledge or consent by the US government in compliance with the US Freedom Act."

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a business communication platform that is part of Microsoft 365.

  • available for all UVic faculty, staff and students
  • in the UVic-hosted version of Microsoft Teams, conversations and calls get routed through Canada
  • if a UVic community member hosts a meeting, they can invite non-UVic attendees

When using Microsoft Teams, some limited contact information may be stored outside of Canada. Email the Protection of Privacy Office for more information.

UVic Microsoft Teams Transcription

The UVic teams transcription feature in Microsoft stores most of the information in Canada.


The use of cellphones for secure research interviews may be done in a secure communication application is used (secured network). In general, WhatsApp is not a secure communications platform


REDCap is a secure web-based data management tool. It is best used for research projects involving data collection and/or electronic surveys.

It includes tools to support data capture and management over a range of uses, such as anonymous surveys, repeated questionnaires or longitudinal studies. 

  • Available to all UVic researchers sponsored by a faculty member
  • All data is stored at UVic

UVic SurveyMonkey

The SurveyMonkey Service for UVic faculty, students and staff is provided by SurveyMonkey Inc. and use of the SurveyMonkey Service at the University of Victoria is subject to the Service Agreement, Terms of Service, and Privacy Policy of SurveyMonkey.

Survey questions and responses will be stored only in Canada. SurveyMonkey (the FluidSurvey Service is provided by SurveyMonkey) employees and subcontractors will not access SurveyData from outside Canada, except (a) when authorized by the Customer for the purpose of implementing, maintaining, repairing, troubleshooting or upgrading the customer's account or the Services ("Customer Support Service"), or (b) for data recovery purposes in the event of a system failure.


Information storage

The protection of privacy policy (GV0235) states that universities must comply with BC's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). FIPPA requires that storage and access of personal information must only be in Canada (FIPPA section 30.1). This includes:

  • email addresses
  • contact information
  • other personally identifiable details

University Systems does not recommend storing any university data on Internet storage services. These include, but aren't limited to, Dropbox, iCloud, Google Docs and Office Live.

Instead, University Systems provides network storage for all active faculty, staff and students that is accessible from on-campus and over the Internet. This network storage gets hosted solely in Canada and is the best place to store university data.

Additional research data storage options are also available through University Systems.


Recording a meeting on an online platform makes the collected information less secure. If a conversation is not recorded, there is no risk of unauthorized access to the recording.

If you must record your sessions, ensure encryption of the cloud service, computer or storage device for recording security. UVic-hosted and configured programs like Microsoft Teams or UVic Zoom are the best methods for providing secure communications and storage.

US Storage

Data and information stored in the US (with or without identifiers) are subject to access by the US government via the US Freedom Act. This permits access to the information without the knowledge or permission of the researcher, their participants and/or persons to whom the information relates.

You may have no other option except to use a US-based platform or to store data in the US. This happens if you have a US-based team member or US funding. In this case, inform potential participants that their data or information will be stored in the US and thereby subject to access by the US government.

As part of the consent process with participants, you must declare/explain the Freedom Act information in your consent form, verbal consent script or implied consent form. For example:

"Information about you gathered for this research study (state if it includes identifiable information) uses an online program located in the US or a program that can be accessed from the US (name of program). As such, there is a possibility that information about you may be accessed without your knowledge or consent by the US government in compliance with the US Freedom Act."


If you don’t have a secure WiFi connection available, you should log in to the UVic virtual private network (VPN). The UVic VPN service provides a secure communication back to the campus network. Some UVic resources may require VPN access.

To conduct the most secure research possible, you should use a UVic-approved computing device. You can use your cell phone to conduct one-on-one interviews, but only if you use a secure communications application such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Social media & apps

If you’re using social media to conduct research with human participants, there are ethical guidelines you should follow. Check out these guidance documents:

If you are planning to use an app to collect data, you should contact the Protection of Privacy Office before you submit your ethics application. This also applies to apps you have created yourself.

Need help?

Contact University Systems if you have questions about a particular platform, program or app for research. Your departmental IT personnel will also be able to help.

Contact the Human Research Ethics Office if you have questions about human research ethics relating to platforms or technology.