If on-line scams and schemes have made you understandably wary of surfing the Internet, take heart and check out the latest offering from Consumers Union. A not-for-profit venture by ConsumerReports.org and Consumers Union, www.consumerwebwatch.com
, is designed to "investigate, inform and improve the quality of information published on the World Wide Web." Since its launch some two years ago, WebWatch has kept a close eye on e-commerce best practices as well as abuses, alerting consumers to shady operators and praising those who adhere to good business practices. It also serves as a handy one-stop source for updates about new online scams and other dangers.
Check out WebWatch for its timely reports and a variety of in-depth investigations into the many issues facing online shoppers and web surfers today. The siteís research extends beyond the e-commerce sector to include information sites, personal services (e.g. career sites), and non-profit web pages. Recently, WebWatch included valuable tip-offs about the pitfalls of job-hunting online, and tips on how to use career Web sites safely. The site has featured some of the most popular online business sectors including travel sites, financial sites, and search engines. In addition to its role as consumer watchdog, the WebWatch also surveys consumers to uncover their perceptions about various Web practices and to identify the criteria they use to evaluate various sites.
Consumer Reportsí WebWatch is also a proactive advocate for establishing credibility standards for Websites. It provides operators of Websites the chance to follow Consumer Reportsí suggested guidelines to promote online credibility. The guidelines recommend that Websites clearly identify themselves, differentiate advertising from news and factual information, indicate if they have financial or business ties with other sites, correct false or misleading content on their site, and provide visitors to their site with clear privacy policies.
Several major sites - including Travelocity, CNN.com, and Barnes&Noble.com have adopted these voluntary guidelines. In all, almost 200 Websites have pledged to abide by these guidelines since Consumer Reportsí WebWatch first launched the pledge effort to promote Web credibility in 2003.