Starting next year, adware and software providers that want to continue placing ads on such prominent Web sites as AOL and Yahoo will have to obtain the consent of users before their applications are downloaded.
Under the Trusted Download Program announced today, TRUSTe will create a list of certified downloadable applications. The program is sponsored by TRUSTe, America Online Inc., Yahoo Inc., Computer Associates Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and CNET Networks. The sponsors will not distribute applications that arent on the list, and they will not accept advertising from the adware providers that dont comply with the program.
The initiative aims to cut down on the volume of adware and spyware that users unwittingly burden their computers with when downloading games, file-sharing programs and other applications.
“Through our Trusted Download Program we will provide a clear, actionable set of standards and an effective method of monitoring and enforcing those standards,” said Fran Maier, executive director and president of TRUSTe. “This extends TRUSTes mission to build trust between individuals and organizations online.”
To be included on the “whitelist” of certified programs, adware providers must prominently disclose the type of ads that will be displayed, the personal information that will be tracked, and the user settings that may be altered by the download. They must also provide an easy way for users to uninstall the adware.
“For the first time, companies, like Yahoo, will have a powerful tool to identify software applications that respect consumers and a means to monitor and enforce compliance over time,” said Doug Leeds, vice president for Product Justice at Yahoo. “This program takes the strong desire of leading Internet companies to protect their customers and transforms it into a market incentive for software developers to build better products.”
Over the past year, industry groups have fought efforts on Capitol Hill to craft stringent anti-spyware legislation, arguing that Congress should not impose any regulations that could inhibit innovation. Tori Case, director of eTrust Security Management at Computer Associates, said that the new program will “help create a self-regulating industry ecosystem where behavior that protects the productivity, privacy and security of users is rewarded and behavior that compromises it is not.”
Microsoft Corp., which has pressed for industry self-regulation to cut back on spyware, provided guidance in the development of the Trusted Download Program, but it is not one of the programs sponsors. The Center for Democracy and Technology, which receives funding from Microsoft, lauded the new industry-backed program.
“I think well look back at 2005, with the announcement of this program, advances in anti-spyware technology and dramatically bolstered enforcement, as the turning point in beginning to truly distinguish good actors from bad in the downloadable software space,” said Ari Schwartz, deputy director at CDT.