Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Integrity on the Internet

Integrity on the Internet is a topic of wide discussion today. There are many sites on the Internet which have the qualities of integrity within them. However, there are many sites which do not. To have integrity within a site on the Internet the owner and/or webmaster must display certain qualities. The qualities discussed below are not all inclusive but are a sample of the type of characteristics that should be displayed. The characteristics discussed are only meant to be indications of integrity which should be displayed. The discussion is not meant to imply that sites without the characteristics below do not have integrity only that they should be more carefully examined. All sites should be reviewed for having integrity but those that have the characteristics below may not need as close a review as others.

One of the most important things a sit must have is a way of making contact. It is important to provide visitors with a way of communicating. Sometimes a site has a broken link or a visitor needs more information or has a question on the information provided. This method of communication should be easily found and easy to use. A site that has a method of contact wants to receive information from their visitors. Visitors can aid the site owner/webmaster in maintaining the integrity of the data. Another characteristic is where information is posted but the webmaster or owner does not give the proper credit to the source. Sources of information should be properly identified. This can be an important factor if a visitor wants permission to use the material. The holder of the copyright must grant permission to use the material under the terms identified on the site or the site of the copyright holder.

Information sources can sometimes be readily determined. Other times it cannot. Information posted which does not identify the source can result in the site being questioned as to the completeness, accuracy and reliability of the information and the site. Giving credit to the source is not enough. There should be a method of contacting them for whatever reason a visitor may need. When I post articles of other writers, I provide the source and a link to contact them for additional information or questions. I have obtained permission to use other writer’s articles on my site and I have identified the source and a method of contact.

Another important factor is where data is collected by the webmaster or owner for tracking visitors and their information. A site should have this identified upfront so any visitor knows the extent of the information collected and how it is used. I have a statement on my site that indicates the type of information that is collected and how the information is used. This will help to make the visitor more comfortable in visiting knowing the data that will be collected and how it will be used.

Another factor to maintain integrity is not posting information for which permission has not been granted by the copyright holder. Sometimes the information is in the public domain. This should be verified before posting. Other times the information is not within the public domain and there are requirements for using information of others. These conditions should not be violated. If questionable information is posted and the source is not readily identifiable, then this adds to the perception that the site lacks integrity.

There are other characteristics which comprise the concept of integrity on the Internet. The discussion of the characteristics above is only an indication of how important integrity is when it applies to the Internet. Any owner of a site must assure that information posted is accurate, complete and reliable. The owner or source of the information must also be questioned or validated before posting. Checking sources before posting information will only increase the integrity perception of site and the information.


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