Technology

What Makes a Site Untrustworthy? Here’s What You Should Know

A new analysis from the Online Trust Alliance notes that a failure to focus on issues of transparency and consumer protection were major reasons that sites didn't find a place on the group's Honor Roll this year.

On the surface, DigitalOcean, American Greetings, Publishers Clearing House, and Under Armour have little to nothing in common, except for one thing: Each company has one of the most trustworthy sites on the entire internet, according to the Online Trust Alliance, an initiative of the Internet Society.

The problem, of course, is that not every website is trustworthy—a point dwelled upon by OTA, which just released the 2017 edition of its Online Trust Audit & Honor Roll [PDF]. The alliance found that while more sites than ever passed its tests in three major categories (e.g., consumer protection, site security, and privacy) with flying colors and despite tighter criteria, many sites failed due to a combination of issues with consumer protection, site security, or privacy.

The report found that 52 percent of sites surveyed—in categories including internet retailers, banks, federal government sites, consumer services sites, news and media sites, and ISPs—ranked well enough to be included in OTA’s honor roll this year.

The sites that performed the best were the ones directly targeted at consumer services, which the report specifically cited for having highly transparent privacy policies. On the other hand, 34 percent of banking sites had inadequate privacy policies.

The largest cause of failure, according to the report, involved poor email authentication procedures—a problem that particularly troubled federal government sites.

OTA founder and Chairman Emeritus Craig Spiezle spoke of the need to protect consumer data online—no matter the context.

“Data is the ‘oil’ of the internet economy. It is fueling innovation, growth, and revenue. At the same time, if abused there is a risk of data spills, negatively impacting user expectations and ultimately the internet at large,” Spiezle noted in a news release. “The OTA Trust Audit & Honor Roll underscores the urgency to embrace responsible security and privacy practices. Failure risks a long-term impact to the internet.”

That said, Spiezle could see the bright side of the results, too. “Despite ratcheting up the criteria needed to qualify for the 2017 Honor Roll, it was encouraging to see the highest percentage of recipients since OTA began the Trust Audit nine years ago,” he added.

The full report goes in depth on a variety of security standards that it used to rank the sites featured. They’re standards that anyone with a website should consider, including Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), domain locking, and multifactor authentication. Read the report over this way.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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