The standards call for adware companies to give consumers full disclosure before installation, obtain opt-in consent, and provide an easy mechanism to uninstall. Adware companies also will be required to label all ads with the name of the adware program. And, in what is likely to be the most challenging requirement for adware companies, they will have to send notices to all "legacy" consumers--people who downloaded earlier versions of the programs that might not have provided adequate notice; adware companies also will have to obtain new opt-in consent from some legacy consumers.
Truste worked with a variety of advisory companies including Yahoo!, AOL, Computer Associates, CNET Networks, and Verizon to develop the guidelines. Microsoft and the Center for Democracy and Technology also contributed to the effort.
But those advisory companies won't necessarily decide to treat ad-serving programs certified by Truste differently from programs that aren't. CNET, for instance, has its own standards for allowing programs on Download.com. While the Truste certification "will be a helpful tool," it won't be the only factor, said CNET spokeswoman Sarah Cain.
America Online spokesman Andrew Weinstein added that AOL's current standards for its business partners are more stringent than the Truste guidelines. AOL's Advertising.com late last year stopped doing business with adware companies.
Some adware purveyors said they supported the initiative. Direct Revenue, for instance, said it intended to apply for certification as soon as possible.
Sean Sundwall, director of communications for adware company 180solutions, also said that 180solutions intends to follow the guidelines and apply for certification. He added that the company might decide to simply stop serving ads to some legacy users who downloaded older versions of the software.
Sundwall also predicted that the certification process would weed out adware companies with unacceptable practices. "By default, it will force the non-legitimate ones to go out of business," he said, adding: "We're confident that a program like this can make it easier for advertisers and potential business partners to feel more comfortable doing business with companies like ours."