Why Microsoft and Google
Wont Sign"> Like Direct Revenue, 180 claims that it already meets many of the TrustE requirements as a result of changes in the last year. However, qualifying for the Trusted Download white list may not be as easy as the adware companies are letting on, said Andrew Weinstein, a spokesperson for AOL, which helped draft the new guidelines."I dont think theres an adware company out there that doesnt get some or even a vast majority of its install base through irresponsible methods," Weinstein said. If those companies have to properly disclose their presence to customers and get their agreement to upgrade to a TrustE certified program, many of those users may choose to get rid of the program, rather than upgrade, Weinstein said. "Its going to change practices and, over time, youll clean up the user base," he said. However, leading players Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. did not sign off on Wednesdays announcement, even though both companies participated in drafting the guidelines. In a statement, Google said it supported the effort to combat spyware, but that the TrustE guidelines lacked teeth in some areas. "We are very supportive of efforts to combat spyware. We offered input for this proposal and evaluated it, but we decided not to participate. We think these are positive steps to address this issue, but we would have liked some pieces of the initiative to be stronger," the company said in a statement. Click here to read about McAfees global initiative to raise awareness of spyware. Microsoft said in a statement that it will re-evaluate participation in the Trusted Download program once the beta cycle has been completed. "We remain committed to working with the industry and groups like TrustE to collectively help protect our mutual customers from spyware," the company said. The lack of backing from Google and Microsoft, despite early participation in the effort, prompted speculation that the TrustE guidelines were released before they were fully baked. There are also questions about whether TrustE will be able to adequately enforce the new certification program. The group is universally praised for its impartiality and efforts to improve privacy practices online, but TrustE has been criticized in the past for lax monitoring of spyware sites. TrustE did not respond to phone and e-mail requests for an interview in time for this story. Participants in the Trusted Download program, including AOL and Yahoo, will give TrustE additional resources to manage the Trusted Download program. However, TrustE will still rely, in part, on complaints from third parties to monitor compliance, Weinstein said. The "free flow of information" online and all the "eyeballs" tracking adware companies should spot infractions by white-listed companies quickly. Also, he said, above-board companies will have a powerful incentive to comply with the TrustE guidelines: fear of losing advertising revenue by falling off the TrustE white list. AOL has its own standards for adware and spyware companies and wont replace those with the TrustE standards, Weinstein said. "[Trusted Downloads] just give us additional information. It may change our behavior [regarding] companies that arent on the white listwe might look at what they did to get off the [white list] and incorporate that into decisions about whether to do business with them," he said. The real advantage of the new certification program is that it draws a clear line between "good guys" and "bad guys" in the adware world, Weinstein said. "The real win is getting the 90 percent of bad actors out of the legitimate business. With no standard, those 90 percent of bad actors are taking money from the same people as the decent companies," he said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.
In particular, the TrustE requirement that companies get user opt-in before moving customers from a blacklisted application to a certified adware program will bring huge changes, he said.