Trusted Sender Blocks Spam

A new online privacy initiative is designed to protect consumers from receiving unwanted or malicious e-mail.

WASHINGTON--Microsoft Corp. on Thursday joined a group of other vendors and privacy organizations in forming a new online privacy initiative designed to protect consumers from receiving unwanted or malicious e-mail messages.

Known as Trusted Sender, the program is based on a set of best practices and is designed to give spam-weary consumers some options for turning off the junk mail flooding their in-boxes by identifying direct-marketing e-mail from trusted companies.

The groups announced the program at the Privacy and Data Security Summit here.

Joining Microsoft in the program are TRUSTe, a nonprofit privacy-certification group; ePrivacy Group, a consulting firm; Internet ad concern DoubleClick Inc.; and Topica.

E-mail messages sent by members of the group will have a unique seal in the top right corner of the message and will follow a certain prescribed format that requires, among other things, that senders include information in the message on how to unsubscribe from their mailing lists.

The seal will also certify that the messages subject line accurately reflects its contents. Consumers will also be able to take any disputes or complaints about Trusted Senders to TRUSTes dispute resolution program.

"At Microsoft, consumer trust in technology depends on empowering people with the control over their personal information and knowledge they need to confidently interact with others online," said Richard Purcell, corporate privacy officer at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash. "The Trusted Sender program is a great example of innovative ways the privacy community can come together to develop powerful and intuitive solutions for consumers."

Privacy advocates previously have been critical of Microsofts privacy policies, especially its handling of data gathered by its Passport online identity system.

TRUSTe will handle the certification of the programs licensees and monitor their compliance.

The program also has the support of the International Association of Privacy Officers and the Association of Interactive Marketing.