Using the Blur Tool to protect personally identifiable information (PII)

 To protect the privacy of your test participants, it’s important to avoid collecting their personally identifiable information (PII), such as their name, email address, mailing address, etc. in web forms or elsewhere in your research. In addition to protecting their security, it also puts test participants at ease and makes them more comfortable taking your test when they know they aren’t sharing their private information.

How to use the Blur Tool

UserTesting’s Blur Tool makes it easy to conceal PII as users take your test. Note: the Blur Tool is only available on some subscription plans. Contact UserTesting Support for more information.

With the Blur Tool, you have the option of blurring any task in your study. Simply click 
the checkbox in the lower right corner of the task.

Here's an example of how to write tasks that will be blurred:

1. In the next task, you will need to create an account using your real information. While you are viewing task 2, your recording will be blurred to protect your privacy. Please move on to task 2 now.

2. Create an account using your real information. Speak aloud about any highs or lows along the way. Remember, this task is blurred to protect your privacy.

3. This task is still blurred to protect your privacy. Is any personal information still showing on your screen? If so, please navigate away from that page before moving on to the next task.

When you receive your video results, you will still hear the participant speaking their thoughts aloud as they complete the task, but the video of their entire screen will be blurred, so you will not see their PII.

Informing your participants about PII and blurring

Through the screener, you can screen for participants who are willing to use their real information but let them know that it will be blurred. In the screener, you can include language such as, "Some personally identifiable information may be requested, and by accepting this test you agree to sharing this information.”

Alternatives to the Blur Tool

An alternative method to avoid PII is to ask participants to pause recording while they are inputting their personal information. That way, you don’t capture any PII during a session and you don’t have to watch them inputting their data. This can save time if you’re not looking at the usability of those screens or form fields. After the task where you’d ask a participant to pause recording, you can add a text at the end of the task for the participant to confirm there isn't any PII left on the screen, and then move to the next task. See the example in the first image above.

Another approach is to provide the test participant with fake information such as email address, name, and credit card information. (For example, "John Smith, 123 Main Street, Houston, Texas, 77002.”) Providing fake information shields the user from divulging their own information and prevents having to blur at all.  Remember, if the site or app you’re using requires there to be real (in this case, real “fake” information), make sure the format is correct. For instance, some forms require a phone numbers area code to 
be valid. If that’s the case, make sure you provide a real “fake” area code.

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