Truste seal aims to separate email from spam

The privacy seals found on many web pages are being added to email in an effort to distinguish legitimate mailings from the flood of spam.

          The privacy seals found on many web pages are being added to email in an effort to distinguish legitimate mailings from the flood of spam.

          An important goal of the technology developed by Truste, a San Jose-based nonprofit privacy seal group, and ePrivacy Group, a Malvern, Pennsylvania-based consulting and technology firm, is to boost consumer confidence in business email -- a confidence they say is being eroded by the seemingly ever-growing volume of spam.

          The Trusted Sender program is in beta-testing at The Microsoft Network (MSN) and some other firms, which want to see if the seal program improves email response rates and encourages people to remain on mailing lists.

          "It could, over time, help people sort out in their in-box who really is a trusted sender and who isn't," says Diane McDade, privacy product manager at MSN.

          As with Truste's web seal program, companies that participate in Trusted Sender must sign on to certain practices, including agreeing to send email only to people who have already given their permission. It also requires installation of a proprietary server technology, either a single appliance or cluster, depending on business needs, that adds the seal to outgoing mail.

          An email recipient sees the stamp on the upper right-hand corner of an email. By clicking on a verification link, the user can check the authenticity of the email. However, users have to either open the email to see the stamp or use their email client's preview feature; otherwise, the only indication of the stamp is a (P) in the subject line. Truste and ePrivacy Group are talking with Microsoft, Yahoo and other email providers and clients to develop a means for getting the seal to be evident without opening the letter.

          The absence of easy in-box recognition is a problem, says Jonathan Gaw, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts. "I don't think it's a complete solution," he says, but if there is easy in-box recognition, businesses "might value something that helps their commercial email stand out from spam."

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