We're from TRUSTe and We're Here to Help

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TRUSTe is a non-profit organization, founded to assure security and privacy on the net. Back in 1996, when the web was way new, there was this bizarre notion that regulation by the government was evil, but industry regulating itself was wholesome and good. People were growing more concerned about the personal data web sites collected. So, to demonstrate the value of industry self-regulation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation stepped in to help found TRUSTe, an organization to review, certify and audit privacy policies.

In theory it was a grand idea. Except there was one tiny flaw in the plan: funding. TRUSTe is financed by the very companies it is supposed to be policing. What has resulted is exactly what you expect when the foxes are left to guard the henhouse.

TRUSTe is not accountable to the consumer it is supposed to be protecting. Instead, it acts in service of its member companies. In the process, what was intended to be a consumer watchdog has turned into an apologist front for companies caught with their hands in the cookie jar. TRUSTe seems to reserve its most severe sanctions for members who fall out of favor by failing to pay their dues.

The farce TRUSTe has become is illustrated by the Yahoo! privacy debacle last spring. Yahoo!, as a TRUSTe member, had a certified privacy policy. Then Yahoo! decided to change its marketing preferences, spam the people who had already opted out, and then roll out a new privacy policy that permits the spam. Problem is this violated the agreement Yahoo! had with its current members. TRUSTe responded not with sanctions, but with excuses to rationalize the violation.

TRUSTe is now trying to get into the email marketing business, and it's deja vu all over again. They are repeating all the same mistakes. TRUSTe is not seeking the counsel of consumer advocates or anti-spam professionals. Instead, it is building a system designed by the very companies that want to fill your emailbox with their marketing. Moreover, if history holds, when their member's spam TRUSTe is going to offer excuses, not sanctions.

TRUSTe is not accountable to Internet users. TRUSTe cannot be trusted to protect Internet users. When TRUSTe shows up offering to help, Internet users should politely decline.

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re: We're from TRUSTe and We're Here to Help

A recent article for email marketers compares methods for assured delivery, including the TRUSTe program. From their perspective, they didn't much like the program either. (via spamNEWS)

re: We're from TRUSTe and We're Here to Help

Slightly skewed away from the subject, but, Chip, what do you use for anti-spam on your server? I'm looking at SpamAssassin. Have your heard anything about it?