Privacy Advisor

TRUSTe Launches Trusted Download Beta Program to Certify That Consumer Software Is Not Spyware

December 1, 2006

Microsoft, AOL, CA, CNET Networks, Verizon and Yahoo! support TRUSTe's efforts to provide market incentives and enforcement.

TRUSTe and sponsors representing leading content and search providers, anti-spyware vendors and online advertisers have announced that software publishers may begin submitting requests to join the Trusted Download Program, a program to certify consumer downloadable software programs.

The Trusted Download Program provides market incentives for adware and trackware companies to clearly and unavoidably communicate key functionalities and obtain informed consumer consent prior to download.

"Consumers want control and transparency over the collection and use of their personal information," said Peter Cullen, CIPP, Chief Privacy Strategist, Microsoft Corp., and a member of the IAPP board. "TRUSTe's Trusted Download Beta Program will help software developers empower consumers with this kind of control. Microsoft is pleased to join other technology industry leaders in supporting this important effort."

"TRUSTe brought together the industry to solve a vexing consumer trust issue. Trusted Download is a comprehensive program that will not only require consumer consent for downloads and rigorous software testing but also accountability for affiliate networks," said Fran Maier, Executive Director and President of TRUSTe. "With the opening of the application process, TRUSTe is now requiring any sealholders that produce adware or trackware to submit their software applications to the Program in order to renew their TRUSTe seal licenses."

"The confusing online advertising environment has led companies to advertise through channels with which they would not want their brand associated," said Ari Schwartz, Deputy Director, Center for Democracy and Technology. "Advertisers now can demand that their brand advertising is displayed only in software that is certified by Trusted Download. This is clearly a giant leap forward for transparency."

The Trusted Download Program will include publication of a "whitelist" of certified applications. The whitelist, which is expected to be publicly available this month, will be used by companies beginning with program sponsors such as AOL, CA, CNET Networks, Microsoft, Verizon and Yahoo!, as a tool to help make business decisions about advertising, partnering or distributing software products. This aims to provide attractive market incentives to adware and other software providers to meet the requirements and earn certification.

To be placed on the whitelist, adware and trackware must prominently disclose the types of advertising that will be displayed, personal information that will be tracked and user settings that may be altered, as well as obtain user opt-in consent for the download.

An easy uninstall with clear instructions must be provided, and advertisements must be labeled with the name of the adware program. Certified adware must maintain separate advertising inventory for users of certified applications. To move legacy users to certified advertising inventory, they must obtain new opt-in consent.