Two privacy organizations are slated to unveil a new e-mail certification program Thursday designed to quash spam by bringing consumer trust to commercial email.
Truste, a San Jose, California-based nonprofit organization known for its Web site privacy certification, and ePrivacy Group, a privacy consulting firm in Philadelphia, have joined forces to launch the new “Trusted Sender” program to identify commercial email that meets privacy standards.
Microsoft MSN and DoubleClick Inc. are among the companies that have agreed to support a beta test of the program, which is scheduled to be announced Thursday to members of the International Association of Privacy Officers at the Privacy and Security Summit in Washington, D.C.
“E-mail is very much regarded by consumers as something that intrudes on their privacy,” said Fran Maier, executive director of Truste. “Consumers are concerned about fraud and they’re concerned about pornography. But they are afraid to opt out because that signals …that they’re a live one.”
The program will allow companies that send out commercial e-mail to attach a stamp to the mail that will ensure the authenticity of the sender and the validity of content, said Vincent Schiavone, president and chief executive officer of ePrivacy Group.
“Our approach is to rise above the traditional reactive e-mail filters and identify the good (e-mails) so they can be elevated,” Schiavone said. “It benefits everybody along the e-mail chain. Senders agree to abide by the privacy principles independently verified by Truste. They have agreed to make themselves accountable to consumers.”
This seal, which will appear in the top corner of the body of the message, will contain an encrypted digital signature along with information on the valid sender and recipient and the date and time. An appliance installed at the commercial emailer’s location generates the digital signature. When the consumer clicks on the seal, they are connected to the Trusted Sender computer, which verifies the digital signature.
The seal also will signal that the e-mail is from a company that has agreed to guidelines based on fair information practice principles, Schiavone said. For example, these principles require that the subject line of the email accurately reflects the content and that recipients be allowed to opt out from receiving future solicitation.
In addition, consumers can bring privacy-related problems to Truste’s dispute resolution program, he added.
In addition to helping consumers sort through the spam that clogs their inboxes, the program will benefit commercial e-mail senders through higher e-mail response rates and message penetration, Schiavone, said. For ISPs the program will offer a method to control the enormous volume of “irresponsible” e-mail clogging their servers, he added.
For the first time, the Trusted Sender program gives consumers a simple, reliable and cryptographically secure means for verifying the authenticity and legitimacy of commercial email, said Simson Garfinkel, author of Database Nation and numerous other books on privacy and data protection.
Truste already runs the largest privacy seal program online with approximately 2,000 Web sites certified throughout the world.