TRUSTe Launches New Identity and Seal

It’s been 10 years since TRUSTe first introduced its privacy seal, the familiar green and black rectangular icon visible today on some 2,400 sites and 22 of the top 50 Web properties. Now, for the first time, TRUSTe has introduced a new identity, trading its boxy-looking family of seals for a more curvaceous group of graphics.

The original site badge was set up to convey to consumers that the privacy practices of a given property had been certified by an independent body, but over time TRUSTe has expanded its certification and seal programs to include oversight of diverse industry issues. These have included e-mail address gathering practices, marketing to children, compliance with European Union and Japanese privacy standards, and, most recently, best practices around adware and other downloadable software. TRUSTe says it also has a hand in resolving about 5,000 privacy disputes a year.

To reflect these additions to its charter over the years, the organization has updated its core icon and added new versions of it as well.

“We wanted to send a signal to the marketplace in the past year that TRUSTe is evolving,” said Carolyn Hodge, marketing director at TRUSTe. “It’s time for a change, and it needs to represent the new TRUSTe, versus the TRUSTe of 1997.”

The new TRUSTe badge depicts a white and black “e”-shaped icon on a green backdrop. It comes in multiple versions: one specific to the group’s core Web Privacy certification, one to its E-mail Certified seal and one to its EU Safe Harbor seal.

Does the Web still need a TRUSTe? Consumer trust in the Internet has improved considerably since TRUSTe first introduced its seal program a decade ago, and whether people still fret over privacy breaches when they visit a new or unfamiliar Web site is an open question.

TRUSTe contends its site badge is still important to consumers, and to site owners. Hodge cited internal research in which using the seal on a site’s homepage boosted customer conversion rates by seven percent and including it on order pages led to a 55 percent increase in revenue per visitor.

“Marketers see an impact on their business as a result of communicating improved privacy practices to their consumers,” she said.

The addition of new certification programs in recent years and the identity refresh are also part of a campaign to stay relevant as online safety concerns evolve. TRUSTe introduced its Certified E-mail privacy seal in 2003, the year CAN-SPAM was passed, and its Trusted Download program of white listed applications in 2006. Before it introduced the latter certification last November, the group drew criticism from spyware watchdog Ben Edelman, who identified several TRUSTe-certified sites he said should not have been granted the core Privacy Seal. A back and forth ensued, during which TRUSTe and Ben Edelman took potshots at each other’s methods.

“The shootout with Ben Edelman was about the core program,” said Hodge. “His main criticism of the core program was that we weren’t including requirements for downloadable program [best practices]. We knew that, and that’s why we launched that program.”

TRUSTe now has a requirement in its Privacy Seal program that if a business offers ad serving or tracking software it must have that software certified with the Trusted Download program.

The new Privacy seal and its offshoots have been tested in recent months on sites operated by Intuit, Audible and E-LOAN. They will now be available to all TRUSTe certified sites.

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