TRUSTe deceived consumers about recertification program, FTC says

The agency and privacy certification provider reach a settlement on its recertification promises

It turns out that TRUSTe, the provider of privacy certifications for online businesses, may not be so trustworthy after all. The company failed to conduct annual recertification checks for hundreds of companies holding its privacy seal, despite promising to do so, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has charged.

The FTC and TRUSTe have reached a settlement on the agency's complaint that the company deceived consumers about its recertification program, the FTC announced Monday.

From 2006 until January 2013, TRUSTe failed to conduct annual recertifications of companies holding TRUSTe privacy seals in more than 1,000 cases, despite saying on its website that companies holding TRUSTe Certified Privacy Seals receive recertification every year, the FTC alleged in its complaint.

In addition, since TRUSTe became a for-profit corporation in 2008, the company has failed to require companies using its seals to update references to the organization's former non-profit status, the FTC alleged. Before converting to a for-profit company, TRUSTe provided clients model language describing TRUSTe as a non-profit for use in their privacy policies, the agency said in a press release.

TRUSTe provides seals to businesses that meet requirements for consumer privacy programs that it administers. TRUSTe seals assure consumers that businesses' privacy practices comply with privacy standards like the U.S. Children's Online Privacy Protection Act [COPPA], a law that limits the amount of personal information Web-based businesses can collect from children.

"TRUSTe promised to hold companies accountable for protecting consumer privacy, but it fell short of that pledge," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. "Self-regulation plays an important role in helping to protect consumers. But when companies fail to live up to their promises to consumers, the FTC will not hesitate to take action."

TRUSTe CEO Chris Babel said the company takes its privacy role seriously. The company has taken fast action to fix the "process issues" covered by the FTC complaint, he said in a blog post.

"We regret that, in these two cases, our processes did not live up to our own standards," he said.

The settlement prohibits TRUSTe from making misrepresentations about its certification process or timeline, and bars it from misrepresenting its corporate status or whether an entity participates in its program, the FTC said.

The settlement also requires the company to file annual reports at the FTC about its COPPA certifications. The company must also pay $200,000 as part of the settlement.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags U.S. Federal Trade Commissione-commerceregulationsecurityChris BabelEdith RamirezgovernmentinternetTrusteprivacy

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?