RealTime IT News

It's a Matter of Trust

Attempts to overcome privacy concerns forced several major Internet players to increase their efforts to give Netizens more control over their online privacy.

This week Microsoft Corp. introduced enhance "cookie" management tools as part of its Internet Explorer 5.5 update. Yahoo! Inc. launched a new privacy center where Web visitors can get information about its privacy policy and practices.

Additionally, Internet firms recommended that the Internet Engineering Task Force move to establish a privacy standard based on trust labels.

While several free Internet service providers have ceased operations and sold their clients to other firms, one no-fee ISP decided that it's customers should know it could be trusted with personal information provided over the Web.

Freeinternet.com, Friday joined the TRUSTe privacy seal program, gaining the distinction that the company meets TRUSTe's strict requirements in the areas of disclosure, choice, access and security.

FreeI.com has begun displaying the TRUSTe Privacy Seal, more commonly knows in the industry as a "trustmark," on its main Web site. The TRUSTe seal offers a direct link to FreeI.com's privacy statement, which provides users with details of the company's privacy and security policies.

By displaying the TRUSTe privacy seal, FreeI.com assures its customers about how the company's Web site handles users' personal information.

Industry analysts anticipate that FreeI.com's prime pitchman, the "talking Baby Bob," will soon be chatting up its privacy concerns in commercials.

Bob McCausland, FreeI.com president and chief executive officer, said it has never asked users for their names, street addresses, or phone numbers, and it never will.

"We strongly support complete user anonymity," McCausland said. "Our users know that this commitment differentiates us from the majority of other ISPs, and we are very proud that this serves as the basis for how we approach privacy issues."

The TRUSTe privacy seal is an online branded symbol that signifies that a Web site has posted a privacy statement and that the company's data gathering and dissemination practices are in compliance with the Federal Trade Commission's fair information practices.

Bob Lewin, TRUSTe executive director, said it's become increasingly clear that the TRUSTe seal has emerged as a symbol that consumers look for when deciding whether to do business with a Web site.

"By becoming a TRUSTe licensee, freeinternet.com is making it easy for its customers to protect their personal information online," Lewin said.

FreeiI.com joins TRUSTe's worldwide licensee base of more than 1,300 Web sites, with representation from nearly every vertical segment on the Internet.

Seattle-based FreeI.com currently provides free Internet access for more than 2.2 million registered users in the U.S. and internationally.