Truste to Vet Adware

NEW YORK Web privacy group Truste said it would certify adware vendors for complying with best practices in an effort to clean up the industry and alert advertisers to bad actors.

Under the Trusted Download Program, set to launch early next year, adware makers can seek certification that, among other things, they “prominently disclose” to consumers that their downloaded software includes advertising programs. It also requires adware companies to obtain consent from existing users for any inventory to be deemed “trusted,” and provide an easy method of uninstalling the software.

The certification program is designed to make it easier for advertisers and software distributors to decide which adware companies are legitimate. Early supporters include Yahoo, AOL, Computer Associates, Verizon and CNET Networks.

The adware industry has come under fire for dubious business practices, such as tricking users into downloading their pop-up software and making their programs hard to uninstall.

Some adware makers have taken steps to improve their practices. WhenU, for example, now includes a 1-800 number on ads it shows to help users understand why they are receiving them. 180solutions and Direct Revenue have also made moves to fully disclose the source of pop-up ads to users. Claria, possibly the largest adware company, is taking steps to shift its business entirely away from the pop-up model that made it the target of advertiser and publisher lawsuits, instead developing a behavioral-targeted ad network and personalization products.

“This will set a standard for us adware companies to live up to,” said Andrew Reiskind, chief privacy officer at Direct Revenue, which plans to apply for certification, “and hopefully most of us are living up to it already.”