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Tech firms try to tackle tracking, ad software

Leading U.S. technology companies, including AOL and Yahoo Inc., unveiled Wednesday a plan to certify software that tracks Web use and generates online pop-up advertisements, in an attempt to cut down on unwanted spyware and adware.
/ Source: Reuters

Leading technology companies, including AOL and Yahoo Inc., unveiled Wednesday a plan to certify software that tracks Web use and generates online pop-up advertisements, in an attempt to cut down on unwanted spyware and adware.

Consumers, lawmakers and regulators have grown increasingly frustrated with software being secretly loaded on to computers, tracking moves on the Internet, disabling computers and filling the screens with pop-up ads.

The organization TRUSTe said it would certify tracking and advertising software if the programs disclose the types of advertising to be displayed, personal data tracked and obtain consent for downloading, among other requirements.

Yahoo, Time Warner Inc.'s Internet service provider AOL, telephone carrier Verizon Communications, Computer Associates, and CNET Networks Inc. all plan to be the initial participants in the program, dubbed "Trusted Download Program."

The list of certified software applications is aimed at helping the companies, which have millions of subscribers and visitors to their pages, decide about advertising, partnering and distributing software, according to the participants.

The effort is meant to provide incentives for the software providers to comply and obtain certification, the companies said.

"For the first time companies like Yahoo will have a powerful tool to identify software applications that respect consumers and a means to monitor and enforce compliance over time," Doug Leeds, a Yahoo vice president, said.

The requirements to participate in the certification program were unveiled on Wednesday and would launch early next year, according to the participants.

The move comes a day before the Senate Commerce Committee plans to consider legislation aimed at regulating the unauthorized installation of computer software and require better disclosure of software features that may threaten privacy on the Internet.

The House earlier this year voted to outlaw certain forms of computer spyware and stiffen fines.