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11/16/2005
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Yahoo, AOL, Others Stand Up Against Adware

A group of Internet heavyweights, including Yahoo and AOL, are backing a plan that would certify software as adware and spyware free in an attempt to stymie the flood of unwanted software plaguing users' computers.

A group of Internet heavyweights, including Yahoo and AOL, are backing a plan that would certify software as adware and spyware free in an attempt to stymie the flood of unwanted software plaguing users' computers.

Dubbed the Truste Download Program and administered by the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Truste, it essentially would be a white list of voluntarily-submitted software that meets a number of anti-adware, anti-spyware criteria. The companies sponsoring the plan -- Yahoo!, America Online, Computer Associates, CNET Networks (which hosts the popular Download.com site) and Verizon -- would only distribute or advertise on programs on the white list.

Among the criteria software will have to meet, said Truste in its lengthy explanation of the program, are easy uninstallation, clear consumer consent before downloading, and disclosure of any affiliate relationships. A host of adware/spyware-like practices and traits are also banned, including taking control of a PC, tracking keystrokes, and modifying computer settings.

Truste will also closely monitor certified software to make sure that adware or spyware isn't slipped into the mix after approval's been given.

Proponents of the program believe that it will mark the beginning of the end for adware. "I think we'll look back at 2005 -- with the announcement of this program, advances in anti-spyware technology and dramatically bolstered enforcement -- as the turning point," said Ari Schwartz, the deputy director of the Center for Democracy & Technology, in a statement.

Others were more succinct. "For end users, this is going to put a stop to unwanted software," said Tori Case, director of eTrust Security at Computer Associates, one of the program's sponsors.

It will do that, she said, indirectly. The white list produced by Truste Download won't be used by anti-spyware vendors, but instead by online advertisers. "The cool thing about this is it's created an ecosystem that takes care of not just the adware vendor, but all the way down to the affiliates, said Case. "The market incentive will be powerful [for adware companies] to toe the line. If they don't, they're going to be shut out by advertising networks."

"The dirty little secret about adware today is that legitimate companies fuel the problem, and Truste's program promises to change that," said Jon Leibowitz, an FTC (Federal Trade Commission) commissioner, in a statement.

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