Getting Started with Public Surveys

11-10-2016 12:24 AM
Esri Frequent Contributor
11 60 24.4K

Public surveys are ideal for crowd-sourcing and citizen-science initiatives because an ArcGIS account is not needed to use the survey. Anyone can submit data. Public surveys are also handy when you need to gather information from the public, measure opinions about initiatives, provide the means to report issues, etc.

In the following example, you can see how Frederick County, in Maryland, provided a public survey for citizens and businesses to report property damage and loss after a flash flooding event in May 2018.  Public surveys like this can be put together very quickly and help you gather information right away.

A public survey can be embedded in a website as you can see, but can also be setup for people to use in the Survey123 field app. This is ideal in situations where participants will contribute to your survey again and again, or while disconnected from the network.  A good scenario may involve a public survey so a group of volunteers can repeatedly report environmental issues found.  The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) chose to make a survey public and encouraged volunteers to download it into the Survey123 app.

The New York Department of Environmental Quality offers a logbook so anglers can report stripped bass catches to help protect the fishery.  The logbook was made with a Survey123 made public, which gets downloaded into the Survey123 app.   This is part of the Stripped Bass Cooperative Anglers Program.

In the City of Sharon, Pennsylvania, an army of volunteers mapped thousands of houses using a public survey.

How to make a survey public?

Making a survey public is straight-forward. First go into the web site and select your survey from the gallery.  Open the Collaborate tab and share the survey with everyone.

If the option to share with everyone is not shown, then either permissions to share with Everyone have been revoked from your ArcGIS account, or sharing with Everyone has been disabled in your ArcGIS organization all together. Ask your ArcGIS administrator for details.

Sharing your survey with everyone is just a first step. If nobody knows about your survey, nobody will contribute data to it. Keep reading to understand how people can open your public survey.

How to promote and open a public survey?

From the Collaborate tab, you can easily obtain URLs to open your public survey.

You can use the survey URL to create HTML links in your own web site, or include them in e-mails, blogs etc.  Note that you can obtain URLs that will open your survey in a web browser, or alternatively URLs that will automatically open your survey within the field app.

Your survey in a web browser: The use of the URLs to open the survey in a web browser is particularly straight-forward: you can embed the link pretty much anywhere, including a tweet, your facebook page... and contributors will not need anything but a web browser to submit data: It will work in desktops, tablets and even smartphones. 

The link to open the survey in the Survey123 field app deserves a more detailed explanation.

Your survey in the Survey123 field app: First of all, for the Survey123 field app link to work, you want people install first the Survey123 app. In the next screenshot for example you can see how we encourage people though an invitation email to download and install the app first.  You will also observe that the URLs provided from the Collaborate tab have been embedded in the e-mail as HTML links.

If you decide to promote your public survey through a web site, you can follow a similar approach: Tell people to download the app first, and then load the survey. Here is an example from the County of San Bernardino, in California.

You can also get creative and describe the process through a video, like shown below.

It is also important to remember that public surveys can only be open in the Survey123 field app by using the provided link. It is not possible to download public surveys from the Download Gallery. We did this on purpose, because we do not want people to get distracted with random public surveys in the gallery.

How to secure data  in a public survey?

By definition, a public survey is accessible to anyone who wants to submit data to it, but that does not mean that anyone should be able to look at the data itself. If your public Survey123 form contains sensitive information, you should configure your survey to prevent users in the public domain from downloading, querying or changing already submitted data.

If you published your public survey using Survey123 designer check the blog post. If your survey was created in Survey123 Connect, check .

How to track contributions to your public survey?

In most crowd-sourcing projects and certainly in citizen-science initiatives, it is important to track who is contributing what. It is important for a couple of reasons: First, to help out curate the data. Second, to recognize the work of the best contributors so they can be recognized and rewarded.    In a typical Survey123 survey, you will always know exactly who is contributing data, when and what data is contributed by whom... as long as they use ArcGIS accounts. In a public survey, however, you are granting permission to anyone to contribute so all of those submitting data without an ArcGIS account will be counted as one: as the general public.

It is always possible to include a question in your survey where contributors can provide their identity. The new e-mail question type included with Survey123's Web Designer is perfect for that.

You can track the activity of your survey' contributions by using the Survey123 website. The Overview tab will give you key stats:

The Survey123 website lets you quickly understand when data is contributed and by who

The screenshot above illustrates one of the several ways in which the Survey123 website will help you  understand contributed data. The line chart shows the number of surveys submitted over time.

Below a view of the Analyze tab, which summarizes every question added to your survey.  There are multiple options to control how the information will be visually represented (as a bar, pie or column chart as well as maps) as well as filters to display the specific questions and time windows to be summarized.

From the Survey123 website you can also download the data of your survey in CSV, Shapefile and FileGeodatabase formats.

I got the data I needed. And now what?

First of all, you may want to stop accepting data from contributors. Unsharing your survey from the Collaborate  tab is a definitive way to stop incoming contributions while preserving your data for further visualization and analysis.

The Survey123 website gives you several options to understand contributed data, but at some point may want to also share the results of your work. I personally like the use of Story Maps, Web AppBuilder and the Configurable Application Templates included with ArcGIS.  All submitted data to a survey is kept in a feature layer, which you can use from any of this apps.

This quick video can give  you some ideas to get started. One of my favorites to make  the results of your survey shine is Story Maps

We hope you enjoy public surveys.  Go play!

Tags (1)
Occasional Contributor II

It is a very good feature. Thanks for updating.  It works very good on iOS 10.x but when I tried it on two different old ipad with iOS 9.3.5 it didn't work on one of them. I don't know why it happened and it is a minimal problem, users should have the latest iOS and new gear. To find the cause is time consuming and I have better things to do.

New Contributor II

Thanks for adding the Public Survey Collaborate options.

New Contributor III

Hi, Ismael!

We are very inspired with this new feature, but we've encountered some strange things while using it.

1. On some android devices it's impossible to enclose captured photo when working with survey in any browser ( chrome, firefox). It seems that we've found the reason - check if popup windows are disabled in the browser. When popup windows are allowed - you can enclose the picture captured with the camera during the survey. Maybe you should add a message for users with disabled popups. With disabled popups the only way to add picture - add it from the galery.

After several attempts to add photo with enabled popups - my browser crashed...

I have Samsung S4 mini with Android 4.4.4 on it.

2. I've created my public survey in the browser. I've changed map to Image and set home location to Moscow. When I open this survey in Survey123 app (using qr code, because the link for opening the app doesn't work on Android), the map settings are reset - home location is Melburn:( and the map is not Image.

3. We didn't manage to open survey on iOs device using QR code. 

You can try my survey: 


Occasional Contributor II

Is it possible to have a survey shared publicly but through Portal so only internal users on a netowrk can access it? This would be a nice way of expanding the reach of surveys internally.



Esri Frequent Contributor

Hi Finian. At this point it  is not possible to use public surveys stored in Portal for ArcGIS. We will enable this functionality in upcoming releases.

Esri Regular Contributor

Hi Anastasia Naymushina‌,

1. Can you please confirm that the "popup" settings you mentioned is exact settings below?

  1. click the 3 dots in upper right corner of Chrome browser
  2. click "Settings"
  3. click "Site settings"
  4. click "Pop-ups"

we've tested on two Android devices (Nexus 4 with Android 5.1, and Google Pixel with Android 7.1) by using the Chrome browser and both with the Pop-up settings blocked (this is the default settings of mobile Chrome), but with no "luck", we can take photos by using camera and also upload the photos successfully in a public survey.

Can you please have a try on another Android device? To see if it's device specific problem or software settings specific problem.

2. It's a known limitation that the settings of a Geopoint question in the website cannot be passed to the converted survey in Survey123 Connect. You need to set it again in the "Map" tab under "Settings" in Survey123 Connect.

3. Would you mind to have a try on the method described by Ismael in this post above? Which is to add the field app link to a string in Outlook manually. It should work on iOS device. But will not work on Android device (known issue).

New Contributor III


My english is not very well but

On my Survey in the part of submit data, I don't have the line : 

Link to this survey (opens in web brownser)

why ?

could you help me?



Esri Frequent Contributor

Bon jour Jullien (and that is how far my french goes! ).

You do not see the link to open your survey on the web because you authored your survey in Survey123 Connect for ArcGIS.  If you create your survey using your web browser at, you will see options to open the survey on the web as well as in the field app. However, surveys published from Survey123 Connect can only be open in the field app.  We are working towards enabling the use of Connect surveys from the web app shortly. In the meantime, you may want to create simpler surveys  from

Occasional Contributor


i tried to make a public 123 survey but when i open the link i have a blank page.

But if i'm connected in AGOL, the the 123 survey form appeared.

So, is it possible to share the 123 survey wiht No AGOL user's?

thank you


New Contributor

Great addition to Survey 123!

I'm not sure if I've found a bug which may be along the same lines as BUG-000101764 or if I'm doing something wrong.  

Here's what I did:

  1. I created a survey in the web view and "collaborated" with everyone (public).  
  2. I was able to use the URL to submit a feature anonymously.  
  3. I then decided that I no longer wanted the public to have access to the survey so I unticked "public" in the collaborate tab and saved it.  
  4. I closed all apps on my phone then clicked on the URL to check that it was no longer shared.  However, I was still able to fill in the survey and click submit but it would simply sit in idle on "getting service information".

I'm using iOS 10.0.2 and Survey 123 version 1.10.25

Any ideas?


Esri Frequent Contributor

Hi Selin Ozdemir‌  The behavior above  can explained  as follows: you downloaded the survey into your device while  it was  public, but then you unshared it.  This caused the app to freeze while trying to access a  Form and Feature Service which are  no longer  available (since they are secured).  This is a good catch. We  will want to pop a proper message to the user rather than just hang on 'getting service information'.

BUG-000101764 is specific to Portal for ArcGIS and it was addressed  in 1.10.25.  The sympton is  the same but the source of the problem was  different (and addressed). Thanks for  reporting this glitch. I will add this to the back-log so we can think about how to better handle the problem.

Occasional Contributor

Are there any plans to expand the functionality of the web builder for Survey123? I have a project that needs a public survey embedded into a website, rather than using the application.

My experience so far is that surveys built using the website work great, but don't have enough functionality for what I need (groups, repeats, ability to define attribute names or point to an existing feature service), likewise any survey that i have built using Survey123 Connect doesn't seem to work as well in the "web" mode as it does in the app.

I will keep going and see what I can come up with. I thought I would mention it to see if anybody had any advice, could point me to something online that I may not have found or at least plant a seed for a future release!



Esri Frequent Contributor

Hi Dan,

 We will progressively add more  functionality into the Survey123 Web Designer. At the moment, you can try the Survey123 Connect option highlighted in the screenshot below, which will launch your survey in a web browser.  For this option to be visible, you must have Survey123 Connect version 1.10 or newer and also have your survey published.  If you find any issues using your surveys authored  in Connect from a web browser, please report the specifics so we can fix the problems.   Once you are happy with your survey, you can embed it within an html iFrame or link to it  from your own web site, like these guys did.

Occasional Contributor

Thanks for that Ismael, I may have been looking at a survey made in a previous version of connect that may not have worked properly with the web app perhaps? I have an updated survey that I need to create for this client so I'll see how that goes.

New Contributor

Is there anyway to hide the or make the feature service behind a public survey, private? So that data that's being captured isn't accessible publicly?

Esri Frequent Contributor

Hi slaird‌, try the following:

1) Login to using the same account you used to publish your public survey

2) Go into My Content and open the folder of your public survey

3) If you created your survey using the web designer at, then open the details page of your survey's hosted feature layer view (the one with the fieldworker suffix).   If you created your survey using Survey123 Connect, then open the details page of your survey's feature layer.

4) Once in the Details page of the feature layer, go to the settings tab and scroll down to the editing section. Check the option to prevent editors from being able to look at features as shown below.

Note: As the owner of the survey, you will still be able to see everything. You can also use the Collaborate option in the web site to share the survey (and data) with other Groups.

New Contributor

Thanks Ismael, that's perfect. The new functionality to add views looks very useful

New Contributor III

Do you have any plans to add the ability to send out notifications (email, text, etc.) to certain people once a survey has been completed? 

Esri Esteemed Contributor

Hi Matt,

It's an enhancement we would like to implement, but not in our immediate roadmap.  Other users have been able to accomplish this using GeoEvent Server, if you are using that component.

New Contributor II


Can a survey published with Survey123 Connect be accessed on a mobile device without having the Survey123 app installed on the device (Android, iOS)?  

I created and published a public survey in the web form builder and everything worked as expected.   However, I wanted to use custom colors in the template so I downloaded it into Survey123 Connect; I  successfully updated the colors using the color picker;  I then saved and republished the survey from Survey123 Connect to overwrite/update the existing survey previously created with the web form builder.  Now when I try to access this survey on my device it requires me to download the Survey 123 app?  

Esri Frequent Contributor

Hi Robert. Yes. This is possible. Once a survey is published, you can open  your survey in a web browser right from Connect using the menu option highlighted below.

This option to use Connect surveys in a web browser is still on the works, but we have made this available in the software as a tech preview feature. Give it a try.  This web browser option works with private and public surveys

New Contributor

Hi Ismael,

In my account I don't have the option of "everyone" even appear - I can only share within my group. Does my account have to have a certain standing to be able to make a survey public?

Esri Frequent Contributor

Hi Meagan. This behavior is expected. The option to share with Everyone is hidden if:

  • the administrator of your ArcGIS organization has disabled sharing with Everyone in the organization.
  • your assigned role was not granted permissions to share with Everyone.

You may want to contact your ArcGIS administrator and request privileges to share with everyone.

Occasional Contributor

It is also important to remember that public surveys can only be open in the Survey123 field app by using the provided link. It is not possible to download public surveys from the Download Gallery. We did this on purpose, because we do not want people to get distracted with random public surveys in the gallery.

Is the same thing true for Survey opened on the web browser?

I would like to know if my public survey can be hidden from anyone who dosn't have the exact link to the Survey?

Esri Frequent Contributor

Hi Nicolas.  It is not possible to hide your surveys once they are  made public. Once someone knows the URL, they can access it. Now, it is also true that  people will very unlikely know about your public survey URL unless you tell them about it.  People need the exact URL.

Occasional Contributor III

Hi Ismael,

Has there been a blog post related to Nicolas’s question? We’ve been using public surveys a fair amount and have attempted to secure them to the extent possible. Things like only allowing adding to the feature service, multiple views with different permissions, hiding the form items after distribution, etc. And it would be great to here from your team what options you feel exist for securing the surveys or data and what implications it might have on usability or accessibility. I think it would go a long way to helping all of us assuage our IT/Security co-workers. I’d be happy to elaborate on any of our efforts in this arena if it would be useful. And thanks for the great blog posts and question responses!


Brandon Keinath

Esri Frequent Contributor

Hi Brandon.   Public surveys can be secured to the extent that you have experienced.   For example, by limiting Query,Delete,Update capabilities in the underlying layer you can secure the content of your survey. This is described in the blog post above.  Beyond that, if securing a survey means tightly controlling (authenticating and authorizing) who can submit data to it, then I would say that the right way to do it is by making the survey private and providing respondents with user credentials to open the private survey. Now, at that point the survey is no longer public, as it  will require people to authenticate.  There are two fundamental issues with this approach, when you need to enable this for large amounts of users. The first one is the cost: Every user will need an ArcGIS Named User license.  I suggest that you contact your Esri Account Manager to discuss the situation because Esri offers special pricing for crowd-sourcing and outreach scenarios like this.  The second issue is management of accounts: ArcGIS Online has  come a very long way in terms  of letting you add users in bulk (from a CSV file for example), but most importantly, the whole invitation process  is now much simpler than in the past. In fact, you can now even let users leverage their own Facebook and GMail user credentials. As you suggest, we probably should think about articulating all of this in more detail. Something to think about over the weekend...

MVP Regular Contributor

Hi Brandon,

     We're creating a survey for a small group of volunteers to collect data, but we don't have enough named users for all of them. What we're trying is a question that is basically a password for the survey. It's a text field that needs to match the correct password answer. The question is required, so they can't submit the survey without correctly answering it. All the other questions are hidden until the correct password is typed in. Of course, displaying the survey results on a webmap later will require a layer view so the password field can be hidden. So far it seems to work well.

Occasional Contributor

I had a question about users without AGOL accounts not being able to obtain the updated version of the survey. Since they don't have accounts, they can't go to 'Download Surveys' to download the latest version. I just want to confirm this with ya'll. It seems that I will have to just create a new one under a different name and then it will be downloaded in the app?  Ismael Chivite  @jamestedrick

Esri Frequent Contributor

Hi Kassandra,

You can share surveys to users who are not logged into the app (public users) by using the survey link url or qr code. These settings are found on the Collaborate tab of the Survey123 website under Submitter settings. You can then select whether they can access the survey via web form, mobile app, or user selection. If the user already has the survey downloaded on the device, they would need to delete it first before selecting the link or scanning qr code, to ensure they get the updated survey.

Hope this helps.


Occasional Contributor

Thanks for the reply Philip I found my answer here: 

"I have several existing surveys that are set to Public for submissions, so that users do not need to sign in to download the survey. Instead, I tell them to visit the survey link in a browser on the device (e.g. to access and download the surveys. I have found (on iPhone, iPad, and Android devices) that when I release updated versions of the survey,

if the users do not delete the existing copy on their devices, the updated version will not overwrite the older version.

So when they go to use the "updated" version, it's actually the same old one. Only by deleting the survey entirely and redownloading it do they get the updates, which also deletes their sent and draft surveys. This is a problem, since most of them want to retain their "Sent" data locally. Is there a setting I have missed, or is this just a function of the public survey option? 

Occasional Contributor

This is an issue that I have also had to deal with Kassandra. I solved it by publishing the update as a completely new version, then advising users to switch to the completely new form. It is a bit of a mess from a data management perspective, but you can then give users a window to switch (and thanks to the metadata you can see which users haven't switched yet), then unshare the survey from the user group, download the data and archive it or upload it to the new survey as a data update in AGOL (although I haven't been able to get the attachments to work doing this just yet)

Hope this helps.

Esri Frequent Contributor

Thanks Kassandra,

I have added your comments and request for this enhancement to our backlog relating to this feature. Currently it is not possible to update the survey if the user is public without deleting the previously downloaded survey first, unless the user is signed in and can access the Download surveys menu.


New Contributor III

We are having a problem with this now too.  We need to be able to update our public surveys cached on the devices for the survey123 app.  Has there been any progress on this issue?CA 4 - Chris Clervi (GISS)

Esri Frequent Contributor

Hi Melinda,

There has been no progress on this issue, it is still not currently possible to update the survey if the user is public without deleting the previously downloaded survey first, unless the user is signed in and can access the Download surveys menu.

I have added your comments and request for this enhancement to our backlog relating to this feature.



New Contributor

Hi everyone!

Could you help me,

how can I share my survey form from the user of another Organization, accounted in AGOL?

I mean not ability to complete the survey, but possibility to edit and change survey form. For example, I created survey form for my client and I want to give him the origin form with ability to edit it. I created survey in my organization's account, but my client has account of another organization.



Esri Esteemed Contributor

Hi Elena,

Survey123 does not support multiple authors.  You can share the survey in a group and invite your client to review.

Occasional Contributor II

If they just want to use your survey as a starting point to design another survey for their own needs, you can send them the XLS file from Survey123 Connect.

Occasional Contributor II

I know that through hosted feature views I can protect my public survey submissions from being edited or deleted, and I can control what fields are visible for a public-facing AGO web map, but is there anyway to completely hide a field from a hosted feature layer view? I've found that while I can disable them in the view's Visualization tab, you can simply open the REST service URL of the public view, click the the "View In: Map" button, and see all the fields via the pop-up on submissions that were created by anonymous users.


I'm in a scenario where we're collecting submissions on storm debris from the public, and need them to provide contact info in case we need more detail from them, but I don't necessarily want that contact information to readable by the public as well, only my org users.


There's the option to control what anonymous editors can see, but I need an option to control what anonymous viewers can see. 

Esri Esteemed Contributor

Hi Aaron,

By disable them in the Visualization tab, did you remove them from the list of visible fields in 'Configure pop-up' > Configure Attributes or use the 'Set View Definition' > 'Define Fields'?  The latter will remove the field from the REST API.

Occasional Contributor II

Ah! Thanks James. That's exactly what I'm looking for. I had done it in the pop-up configuration. Don't know how I've missed that "define fields" option after all this time. Appreciate it!


Occasional Contributor

There's a point about securing a public survey that's not covered in this post that I was hoping someone could help me with. I know I can enable security on the underlying feature layer / view to only allow additions of data and not allow any viewing of the data by the public.  But what I have not figured out is how to ensure someone actually uses the Survey 123 form to submit data.  What I mean is, if someone goes into ArcGIS Online (even just being public and not signing in), and puts in the right search terms, they can find the feature layer that is the back-end for my public survey.  Then they could easily add that feature layer to the ArcGIS Online map and start editing it by adding new points (or presumably adding new points via other methods like editing in ArcMap, REST endpoint/API, etc... though I've not tested these other methods).  The problem with this is that those methods don't have the same conditional logic and calculated values that the Survey123 form does.  For example, my form may auto extract X,Y coordinates from a submitted photo's EXIF data into new calculated fields, but if the public adds a new point outside of the survey, that's not going to be calculated automatically.  Similarly, if I've got logic that says if question 1 equals X and question 2 equals y, then question 3 can only equal A or B... that kind of logic and validation isn't guaranteed for my survey responses feature layer unless I can guarantee they responded via the Survey123 form.  It seems like there would be an obvious solution to prevent this issue, but I'm not finding anything.  Any help would be appreciated.

New Contributor III

I'm having this same concern right now about about users enter data into the public record feature service through a web map.  I thought there was a way to secure a service so it is only available through an app, or specified apps.  Possibly by using a layer view?  

New Contributor

You can try using Limit Usage under the layer's Settings. It needs to be a layer added from the web, so either re-add your hosted feature layer or add an unfederated server's service. (Help article: Then you can specify which URLs you want to be able to access the resource, like where you host the web application. Then even if someone tries to add it to an ArcGIS Online webmap, it errors out. For ESRI mobile apps, we found some strings that could be used to limit the usage to those SDKs to limit the use to Collector. ( Not sure if it would work exactly the same with Survey123 (especially if it's a web form vs app form), but could give you a place to start. This method allows any application built with these SDKs to access the item, but does help prevent people from editing it in AGO. If you need even more security on a public survey, I've had my users enter a password and if that text string matches the actual password, the rest of the questions appear. Some of those initially missing questions are required, so the survey can't be submitted without the password.

Occasional Contributor

Hi there,

I'm having issues seeing the data. I have public publishing rights and created the survey with the account but once I do these settings in the feature layer I can't see anything in the Data tab. Also I can't see/edit features when I try to open in map viewer. The weird thing is I can see it using the "Link to survey results" under the Collaborate tab. Any help on this is much appreciated. Thanks 


So there is a bug, here is what the ESRI tech emailed me.

I was able to reproduce this on my end also. I see that there is a BUG logged about this and I am going to attach this to our case also. The status of the BUG is Not in Product Plan and here is the Public Explanation:

  • "Editors can't see any features, even those they add" disables query for everyone, including the data owner.
  • The data page points to the actual feature service if you are signed in as the owner, but it points the the feature service view if you are signed in as anyone else.
  • If you change the feature service permissions to "Editors can't see any features, even those they add" then you will lock out the owner, as query against the service is disabled.
  • If you change the permissions for the view to "Editors can't see any features, even those they add" then you will lock out everyone else, as query will be disabled for the feature service view.
  • We don't generally recommend that users change the permissions directly in AGOL for reasons such as this.
Esri Esteemed Contributor

Hi Kassandra,

Do you happen to have the BUG for this?  This is an issue being examined by the Survey123 team - while the feature service reports that querying is disabled (which is what the website uses to check), the feature service an be queried by the data owner.

New Contributor III

Now I want to know.... how do I "define fields"  is that in the visualization tab?  If so where?  I'm not finding it... 

New Contributor III

Thanks.  I haven't been able to get survey123 to use my limited access feature service yet. If anyone else out there has tips please send them my way!

Occasional Contributor

The BUG number is BUG-000110691

Esri Contributor

I have another question regarding public surveys. I would avoid that there are no serious answers come into the survey. I see two possibilities. The first would be integrate a Captcha in a survey. The second would be the necessary to input a correct e-mail address. After doing this an email would be sent with a link to the sender and only if the link would be confirmed the whole data would be written into the feature service. Are there any plans to integrate these two issues or is it already possible today?