The Murky World of Online Reviews: Who Can You Trust?
December 10, 2015
Booking a vacation? Buying a birthday gift? Searching the web is a quick, convenient, and cost effective way to shop for the things you need. However, because online shopping doesn’t allow us to see or prove the quality of an item, we often rely on product and company reviews to help make decisions about our online purchases. But how reliable and truthful are they?
The sad truth is that some companies offer discounts or monetary incentives to customers in exchange for positive reviews, and that there is no consistent way of certifying the legitimacy of reviews. That being said, there are ways to make smarter decisions as an online shopper:
- Is the website legitimate? Reputable websites have software verifying whether or not the reviewer is a legitimate person, and a frequent online shopper.
- Research, research, research. Don’t limit yourself to a handful of comments from one source. Compare online reviews from different websites and look for patterns. There are even some websites that are specifically designed for product and service reviews, where you can gain insight from genuine shoppers and experts.
- Study the reviewer’s word choices. Be more skeptical of glowingly positive (or excessively negative) reviews. The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. Also, look for specific details regarding the item’s functionality, price, quality, etc. This will help you distinguish the reviewers who have genuinely used the product/service versus those who have not.
We encourage you to check out the Canadian Consumer Handbook for more information on safe and fraud-free online shopping!
This is off-topic, but I wasn't sure where else to send this. I was wondering if you could do a blog post on browser extensions, the permissions they request and whether they are safe and recommended. For example, Adblock Plus wants to read and change data on all the sites I visit, is that safe? And the EFF just came out with Privacy Badger which asks for the same thing. Do these extensions actually protect your privacy or are you just giving your information to yet another company? Thanks for taking the time to read this :)
You can submit your concerns and questions to the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre (CCIRC) at email@example.com. They will be able to give you more information about browser extensions.
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