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November 16, 2005

Internet giants take on adware

Internet leaders, including Yahoo and AOL, are backing a plan that would certify software as adware and spyware free in an attempt to stem unwanted software plaguing users' computers.

By CBR Staff Writer

Dubbed the Truste Download Program and administered by the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Truste, it would be a white list of voluntarily-submitted software that meets a number of anti-adware, anti-spyware criteria.

The companies sponsoring the plan – Yahoo!, America Online, Computer Associates, CNET Networks and Verizon – would only distribute or advertise on programs on the white list.

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 TRUSTe’s mission to build trust between individuals and organizations online.

Among the criteria software will have to meet would be easy uninstallation, clear consumer consent before downloading, and disclosure of any affiliate relationships. Spyware-like practices and traits are banned, including taking control of a PC, tracking keystrokes, and modifying computer settings.

I think we’ll look back at 2005 – with the announcement of this program, advances in anti-spyware technology and dramatically bolstered enforcement – as the turning point, said Ari Schwartz, the deputy director of the Center for Democracy & Technology.

It will mean companies such as AOL and Yahoo leaving millions of dollars of advertising revenue on the table. Yahoo is absolutely prepared to walk away from adware companies that don’t comply, insisted Doug Leeds, Yahoo’s vice-president for product justice. 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. 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.

Truste Download Program is currently in beta, but will go live in the first quarter of 2006.

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