January 31, 2002 8:25 AM PST

Privacy group to put seal on spam

Privacy seal group Truste on Thursday announced the launch of a new service to help police unsolicited commercial e-mail, or spam.


Is Truste a true spam blocker?
Fran Maier, executive director, Truste

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The nonprofit group has partnered with privacy consulting and technology company ePrivacy Group to introduce a certification and seal program for commercial e-mail, much like its Web site seal program. Under the new plan, e-mail sent by volunteer "trusted sender-certified" companies will contain a seal that signifies the message is compliant with Truste's privacy rules.

"Consumers consider spam as an intrusion on their privacy," Fran Maier, Truste's executive director, said in a statement.

"Consumers will now have guideposts to allow them to easily verify the legitimacy of e-mail messages, gain greater control over their in-box, and turn to a third party to resolve disputes," Maier said.

So far, companies including Microsoft, DoubleClick and Topica have agreed to support the program.

The move comes as consumers grapple with an ever-increasing amount of spam to their in-boxes. By 2006, consumers are expected to receive an average of 1,400 pieces of junk e-mail to mailboxes every year, according to Internet researcher Jupiter Media Metrix.

It also comes as marketers seek to draw lines around what defines spam vs. legitimate commercial e-mail. Last week, the 5,000-member Direct Marketing Association announced new mandatory guidelines that emphasized notice and choice for ending e-mail sales pitches. The organization said that it hoped to establish best practices for its members to help avert the need for federal regulations surrounding commercial e-mail.


Gartner analyst Joyce Graff says that while the short-term goal is to regulate e-mail at the state and national levels, the wider goal is to control junk e-mail throughout the entire Web--where political boundaries are moot.

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Under Truste's new program, participants can obtain an e-mail seal if they comply with four criteria. The sender must adhere to Truste's fair information practice principles and e-mail best practices, which include giving consumers notice and choice about receiving e-mail solicitations. The subject line of the e-mail must be accurate, and the message text must always allow consumers to opt out of further communications.

Finally, the sender is accountable to Truste's dispute resolution program, in which consumers can complain about a company's e-mail practices.

Truste will unveil the new seal program, called Trusted Sender, at the 2nd Annual Privacy and Security Summit in Washington, D.C.

Other supporters of the program include ClickAction, the International Association of Privacy Officers and the Association of Interactive Marketing.

 

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