Project 3 – Website Production – Task 2 Legal and Ethical Issues in Web Design

For this project I have to write a 500 word report on legal and ethical issues in web design and outline the following:

  • WAI Guidelines
  • Copyright
  • Internet, privacy and crime

WAI Guidelines
What is WAI? It stands for Web Accessibility Initiative and is started by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the standards governing body of the World Wide Web. It is an attempt to make the web a more accessible place for people with a disability.
The Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 (DDA) states that all services – including web services and internal IT systems – should be made accessible to members of the public. The W3C, has laid down guidelines to ensure website accessibility for the visually impaired and hard of hearing through the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – currently version 2.0.

By discriminating against visually impaired individuals website owners are exposing themselves to possible lawsuits and legal action. If your website is not fully accessible it also prevents an important sector of the market from visiting your website and viewing your products and information. 20% of people in the UK have some form of disability, according to figures released by the W3C.

The guidelines start with four principles that provide the foundation for Web accessibility: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Under the principles are guidelines. The 12 guidelines provide the basic goals that designers should work toward in order to make content more accessible to users with different disabilities. For each guideline, testable success criteria are provided to allow WCAG 2.0 to be used where requirements and conformance testing are necessary such as in design specification, purchasing, regulation, and contractual agreements.
For each of the guidelines and success criteria in the WCAG 2.0 document itself, the working group has also documented a wide variety of techniques. The techniques are informative and fall into two categories: those that are sufficient for meeting the success criteria and those that are advisory.

The full guidelines (taken from the current 2.0 guidelines here: are:

  1. Perceivable
    1.1 Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
    1.2 Provide alternatives for time-based media.
    1.3 Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
    1.4 Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.
  2. Operable
    2.1 Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
    2.2 Provide users enough time to read and use content.
    2.3 Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
    2.4 Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
  3. Understandable
    3.1 Make text content readable and understandable.
    3.2 Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
    3.3 Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
  4. Robust
    4.1 Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

In short, some examples of implementing these guidelines could be:

  • make use of ‘alt’ tags to describe a photo
  • don’t have any flashing images on a screen
  • use simple language – not too much jargon
  • Many big companies have written about their website’s accessibility on a page on their website, such as number10, the prime minister’s website, which happens to be written in WordPress, my fav platform :-).


    Copyright law says that the creator of the design and content on a web site automatically becomes the legal owner the moment it’s designed or written. Most people put a copyright notice on thier website (typically in the footer) but is it not required by law.

    The most common types of copyright infringement on the web are images being used on web sites other than the owners. It doesn’t matter if you copy the image to your web server or point to it on their web server. If you use an image on your web site that you didn’t create, you must get permission from the owner. It is also common for the text, HTML, and script elements of a page to be taken and reused. If you have not gotten permission, you have violated the owner’s copyright.

    To prevent people using your images, you can choose to use watermarks and/or include a copyright notice in the alt tag or even use specific software to put a copyright notice on your image. In your own written code or CSS, you can include a copyright notice in the comments (by using // or /* for opening and closing tags)

    More information here: Web design copyright (a fact sheet from UK Copyright Service).

    Internet, privacy and crime

    The internet is a vulnerable place and leaves things open for hackers and other people with bad intentions to cause harm.

    Privacy: Facebook is a prime example where recently, some people who had not changed their privacy settings, have been getting into trouble with their employers for posting certain status updates or images/videos harming the integrity of their company. Facebook changes their privacy rules quite often, to make sure Facebook and it’s personal content stays just that, although a lot of people are of opinion that facebook uses and abuses your personal information for their own gain, which to a certain extend they do, with their personalized advertizing.
    Google and YouTube have also recently changed their privacy policies, in short this means from March 2012 Google can use data they collected on YouTube to improve and customize the users’ YouTube experience, but also use the data to customize and improve user experience on, say, Google+. The new privacy policy removes the separation between YouTube, Google search, and other Google products. This also means that when logged in and you do a search on Google, it will customize your search results based on previous searches and personal details such as location.

    Crime: The most common types of crime on the internet are:

    • Hacking – all sorts of things could be hacked into, such as email accounts, online bank accounts, social networking accounts, your own website, your own computer or big companies databases or computers
    • Viruses – Viruses can be attached to downloadable files, web pages or emails and can harm you computer quite severely to the point where you would need to replace your hard drive. A virus could also work behind the scenes and just take information without you knowing it (hacking)
    • Pirating – This is illegal downloading, mostly of music and software, but also films and tv broadcasts
    • Illegal Trading – mainly the selling of fake brands such as designer clothing, jewelry and cigarettes
    • Fraud – companies tricking customers of banks and building societies to believe that the website they are on or email they got was genuinely from their bank and building society, prompting customers to give away passwords and personal sensitive details that can be used to hack into someones account or steals someone’s identity
    • Scams – one of the biggest scams originated from Nigeria, sending emails to people all over the world with a sob story and asking for money to be wired over, or even a ridiculous business proposal promising you lots of money for little effort (but a high price!)
    • Prescription Drugs – In the UK, thanks to a flaw in the Medicines Act 1968, drugs are being sold over the Internet that can have serious side effects and should only be prescribed after a detailed consultation with a doctor.
    • Defamatory Libel– is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image. This can be also any disparaging statement made by one person about another, which is communicated or published. It is usually a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed.
    • Cyber Stalking – This is sending someone abusive or obsessive emails or posting their details on a website without them knowing
    • Identity Fraud – When someone assumes your identity by illegally obtaining your details and using your details to apply for credit cards, order things in your name and sometimes even using your bank account or own credit card

    How to prevent all the above? It is hard to prevent all of it, but make sure you have a good virus scanner on your computer, do not open or reply to dodgy mail, never give away any passwords or sensitive personal information, check and set your privacy settings on profile websites accordingly, if you have your own website, install a spam stopper such as askimet and always buy on secure sites (https as apposed to http in the addressbar)

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