TRUSTe Gives Nod To WhenU, Snubs Zango

by , Feb 16, 2007, 6:00 AM
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After spending more than one year reviewing adware companies, the nonprofit TRUSTe has issued its first "whitelist" of programs that meet its certification guidelines.

The results: adware company WhenU made TRUSTe's cut, as did Vomba Network, but Zango, which recently agreed to pay $3 million to settle FTC charges, was among the adware purveyors that weren't certified.

Adware companies, which serve pop-ups to people as they surf the Web, have frequently come under fire from consumer groups and law enforcement authorities. While specific complaints vary, one of the most common criticisms is that consumers end up with adware on their computers without their consent.

In the last several years, WhenU revised its policies in an attempt to reduce the chances of non-consensual installations. Even so, the company again had to tweak its practices before TRUSTe certified the company. Among the most significant changes, downloaders must now check an opt-in box or otherwise affirmatively indicate that they consent to the installation. Before, that box indicating consent sometimes was pre-checked, so that consumers had to affirmatively opt out if they didn't wish to go ahead with the download.

TRUSTe's failure to certify Zango marks a setback for the company, which has long said it intended to apply for TRUSTe to be named to its whitelist. "We are working very hard to certify our products and practices with the TRUSTe program standards," the company said in a blog post Thursday.

For WhenU, the certification could mean it has a better chance of distributing its software through some of the Internet's biggest Web companies. "Certainly it opens the door for those conversations," said WhenU CEO Bill Day.

AOL, CA, CNET Networks, Microsoft, Verizon and Yahoo sponsored the certification program, and according to TRUSTe, will use the whitelist "as a tool to help make business decisions related to advertising, partnering and distributing software products."

Previously, some of those companies definitively announced they wouldn't do business with adware purveyors. At CNET, for instance, two years ago Downloads.com banned bundled adware-supported programs from its site and purged nearly 600 such products.

A CNET spokeswoman said the company hasn't made a decision yet about whether to allow adware programs from WhenU or other companies to return to the site.

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