Adware Vendors Back Trusted Download Program

Nonprofit online privacy group TrustE's proposed registration program for downloadable software has the support of major vendors, as well as the FTC, but Google and Microsoft are remaining aloof for now.

Two prominent advertising software vendors said on Wednesday that they would support a new registration program for consumer downloadable software programs that is backed by Yahoo Inc., America Online Inc. and others.

Representatives from 180 Solutions Inc. and Direct Revenue Inc. said their companies would agree to support the Trusted Download Program and begin making changes to their software programs to comply with it.

However, questions remain about the scope of the program and about enforcement, those involved with it say.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more about TrustEs proposed certification program for adware downloads.

The new program was announced Wednesday by TrustE, the nonprofit online privacy group, along with America Online Inc., Yahoo Inc., CNET Networks Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Computer Associates International Inc., in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

TrustE will require advertising software vendors to disclose the kinds of advertising that will be displayed using their software and the kinds of personal information they will track.

Consumers must also be informed about any configuration settings that will be changed by the software and given an easy way to remove any advertising software, according to TrustE. Most importantly, advertising software vendors must move their customers to certified software and receive user consent to do so.

Products that comply with the program will be listed on a published "white list" of certified applications that can be used by companies like Yahoo and AOL to make business decisions about advertising, partnering or distribution, TrustE said.

"We totally support the program. We think its a step forward," said Andrew Reiskind, chief privacy officer at Direct Revenue Inc.

/zimages/3/28571.gifFor advice on how to secure your network and applications, as well as the latest security news, visit Ziff Davis Internets Security IT Hub.

Direct Revenue said it plans to get its adware certified under the program and will have to make some "tweaks" to do so. The company has attempted to contact TrustE to figure out exactly what changes to make.

"I think the proposal is in beta stage. We need to feel some things out to see how each adware company approaches them," he said.

At 180 Solutions Inc., spokesperson Sean Sundwall called the Trusted Download program a "landmark."

"This changes everything. Weve been clamoring for the rules of the game for years now," he said.

While some of the TrustE guidelines are more restrictive than 180 would like, the company plans to comply with them by the time the program goes live, he said.

"The adware industry has more to prove. Some of these restrictions are more prescriptive, but were fine with them," he said.

180 will need to change its software to indicate, in each pop-up ad, where the advertising software thats displaying the ad came from, he said. The link will remind consumers that they consented to install the software—if, in fact, they did so. "Everyone complains that [adware] is unwanted software. Maybe thats true in some instances, but in many cases its just forgotten software, not unwanted," he said.

Advertising software companies like 180, Direct Revenue and Claria Corp. are hoping the TrustE program takes the "zealotry" out of the debate about adware and provides cover for adware vendors, as well as advertisers and Web publishers who want to do business through the companies, he said.

Next Page: Why Microsoft and Google wont sign.