email interviews and encryption

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    Hi All,

    Can anyone with experience conducting email interviews give me some advice on email security? I plan to interview my participants via email but I’m getting into a flap about whether I need to use encryption software to reduce the possibility of those not authorised viewing the data. Part of me thinks I might just be being paranoid and that, given I can’t police the participants computers, encryption software would do little to reduce any security risks whilst making the process unnecessarily complicated. Any thoughts/suggestions?

    Ahmad Salih

    Hi Michael,


    I will be conducting email interviews for my doctoral study. I have never thought about encryption. I have probably read every article out there on email interviewing and the concept of encryption was never mentioned. I personally would not worry about encryption–for the reasons you have mentioned.




    Hi Ahmad,

    Thanks for your reply. I’ve also not come across any reference to the need for encryption in any papers on email interviews however I’ve read in the the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) ethics guide ( the following Sally Hambridge quote:


    ‘Unless you are using an encryption device (hardware or

    software), you should assume that mail on the Internet is not

    secure. Never put in a mail message anything you would not

    put on a postcard’.



    Personally, I think encryption measures would be a good idea for an institution dealing with sensitive date and therefore a probable target for hacking however it seems rather over the top in the context of my research project (that’s not to say that I’d be happy conducting my interviews by way of postcards ;-)).


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