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March 4, 1999


By CBR Staff Writer

By Nick Patience

Truste, the non-profit personal privacy initiative that vets web sites and awards them seals of approval, will launch its European operation next week ComputerWire has learned. The group will name Adrian Friend as its European director. Friend was part of the taskforce working to establish Truste in Europe last we heard and the group is likely to be based in Amsterdam. In November Truste set itself 45 days to get rooted in Europe and though it has taken slightly longer, the organization has been growing quickly during that time. It now has 475 licensees and estimates that it has one third of all US-based web sites covered, although that is almost impossible to determine.

But such seals of approval only work if users know about them and something can be done about those that violate privacy. To that end, Truste has entered into a partnership with Microsoft Corp to make it easier for web sites to construct a privacy policy in accordance with Truste’s guidelines. It is including its wizard that helps companies to develop privacy policies on Microsoft’s MSN LinkExchange site, which includes affiliate marketing tools, a banner ad network, search engine placement and other marketing devices aimed at small businesses. Truste says the message of privacy is understood by the large sites; now it also needs to be understood by smaller web sites. Microsoft LinkExchange, which it acquired it November 1998, has about 1.4 million small business members. Truste says the tool is in beta right now but it has version on its own web site.

Truste and other privacy groups are the high-tech industry’s response to calls from the US government to come up with a self- regulatory system for protecting personal privacy on the web. The US and the European Union are currently negotiating a compromise stemming from the October 1998 introduction of the European data directive, which requires all companies in Europe to prevent the transfer of personal data to any country that does not provide an adequate level of protection for that data, and that includes the US. Truste and others offer seals of approval for web sites that maintain adequate levels of data protection. If those do not prove satisfactory, the US may have to introduce some sort of personal privacy legislation to appease the Europeans.

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