11. Ensure Information Quality and Accuracy

The Internet enables agencies to communicate information quickly and easily to a wide audience, which, while of great benefit to society, also increases the potential harm that can result from disseminating incorrect information. Taking this into account, information disseminated from Federal Government websites and digital services, or from third-party services on behalf of the Government, is expected to be authoritative and reliable.

The Information Quality Act applies to all information disseminated from Federal websites, and in certain cases, to information published to third-party sites on behalf of the Government. OMB has published Information Quality Guidelines to help agencies meet this requirement. 26

A. Information published by an agency must convey a sense of utility, objectivity, and integrity which are defined in OMB’s Information Quality Guidelines as:

  1. Utility - The usefulness of the information to its intended users.
  2. Objectivity - Whether the information is presented in an accurate, clear, complete, and unbiased manner.
  3. Integrity - The security of the information from being altered, corrupted or falsified by unauthorized sources.

B. Agencies must be transparent about the quality of the information that they disseminate and must take reasonable steps where practicable to inform users about the information quality of disseminated content, such as:

  1. Clearly identifying the inherent limitations in the information so users are fully aware of its quality and integrity;
  2. Taking steps, when and where practicable, to remove these limitations; and
  3. If necessary, reconsidering whether to disseminate the information if its information quality is not sufficient.

C. The Information Quality Act also applies to third-party publications in cases where the agency is using the third-party service to disseminate information on its behalf or where the agency has the authority to review and approve the information before it’s published.

In cases where members of the public are allowed to post or contribute their own information to a third-party site operated on behalf of the agency (e.g., agency sponsored social media accounts), the agency must ensure that it is clear to the public to the extent practicable:

  1. The inherent limitations of such information and that it is not sponsored by the Federal Government; and
  2. That the same level of utility, objectivity, and integrity found in Federally-sponsored information may not be present.

D. Agencies must include reasonable management controls and establish a review process to ensure that information provided online, and links to any external information, provide a suitable level of information quality as implied by the agency linking to or referencing it from their official website.

E. Agencies must clearly identify external links from their websites, and to the extent practicable update or remove the links when the external information is no longer sufficiently accurate, relevant, timely, necessary or complete.

  1. Agency websites must clearly state that the content of external links to non-Federal Agency websites is not endorsed by the Federal Government and is not subject to Federal information quality, privacy, security, and related guidelines.
  2. Agencies should choose the best approach to identify external links to users in a way that minimizes the impact on the usability of their websites and digital services.

F. Agencies must post information quality guidelines, information quality correction requests, agency’s formal response(s), and any communications regarding the appeals on their website. Agencies must also establish a process for updating their information quality web pages on a regular basis. 27


Footnotes

26: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/assets/omb/fedreg/reproducible2.pdf

27:29 U.S.C. § 794d