TRUSTe initiative would put privacy symbols on sites

Internet privacy group TRUSTe launched an initiative Tuesday that aims to slap symbols and labels on Web sites so that their privacy policies are clearly and immediately understood by users.

Much like nutritional symbols on food packages, the group hopes to develop widely recognized iconography that eschews long-winded privacy policies draped in legalese in favor of succinct symbols that are not only easily recognized, but small. Diminutive size is key when dealing with devices with limited screen sizes such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) and cell phones, the group said.

Under its TRUSTe Privacy Symbols and Labels Initiative, the group said that consumers would be able to more easily control how their personal data is being used. Furthermore, consumers will be given the assurance that an independent third-party is monitoring the privacy policies of the sites they visit, the group said.

TRUSTe said that its icon system will leverage industry privacy standard P3P (Platform for Privacy Preferences), a technology that enables consumers to indicate electronically to Web site operators how they should treat personal data. P3P has been garnering industry attention lately as privacy issues have come to the forefront. Microsoft Corp. has even decided to include P3P in its upcoming Internet Explorer 6 browser, due out with its new Windows XP operating system in the third quarter of this year.

Citing a need for wide adoption, TRUSTe hopes to gain support for its initiative from government agencies, advocacy groups and industry players. According to TRUSTe, groups such as the Personal Communications Industry Association, the Information Technology Association of America and the Wireless Advertising Association have already jumped onboard the proposal.

The nonprofit organization is seeking funding for the project’s rollout and for a consumer awareness campaign.

TRUSTe Co-founder and Chairman of the Board Lori Fena was due to introduce the program to the Congressional Internet Caucus in Washington D.C. Tuesday during a speech on wireless privacy.

Truste can be found on the Internet at

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