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Legal and Regulatory Issues for Technical Communicators Conducting Global Internet Research

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Purpose: This article discusses the ethical and regulatory issues that technical communicators need to consider when conducting Internet research.

Method: We open by considering how technical communicators live, work, and do research in global contexts where distributed networks for the design, development, and distribution of documents, interfaces, and technologies span cultural and geographic borders. By drawing on published case work and interviews with technical communicators who work in global contexts, we examine the key legal and ethical issues technical communicators face when they are conducting Internet research. We propose heuristics for technical communicators to use when addressing these issues.

Results: Key legal and regulatory issues that technical communicators face when conducting Internet research include the diversity of legal regimes, the variability of privacy laws and cultural differences, the impact of government surveillance on research risks, and the complexity of intellectual property in a global world.

Conclusion: Technical communicators need to be aware of the potential legal and regulatory challenges they may encounter when conducting Internet research that spans cultural and geographic borders. By consulting precedent cases, seeking advice from diverse audiences (e.g., focal participants, corporate legal), and remaining flexible in research design, technical communicators can successfully meet these challenges.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-08-01

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  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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