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Group backs program to certify downloads

Trusted Download Program, backed by several tech companies, is designed to protect consumers from adware, spyware.

WASHINGTON--A group of Internet companies plans to announce on Wednesday a new program to certify downloads so consumers can get friendly and noninvasive software.

The Trusted Download Program is backed by America Online, Yahoo, CNET Networks, Verizon and Computer Associates. The program is set to begin early next year in a trial version, when the Internet partners will get access to a list of applications certified by online privacy watchdog group Truste, according to a statement from the companies. (CNET Networks is the parent company of CNET

"With consumers downloading more and more software, it's vital to give people real control over what they will allow on their computers," Fran Maier, executive director of Truste, said in the statement. The official announcement of the initiative is scheduled for Wednesday morning at an event here.

Spyware and adware have become widely despised for sneaky distribution tactics, unauthorized data gathering, the eating-up of computer processing power and other annoyances. Although adware makers say there are legitimate uses for their programs, an entire anti-spyware market has been spawned to combat the often unwanted software.

The Trusted Download Program won't blacklist adware or spyware. Instead, to be certified, makers of the software have to clearly communicate what their product does. The consumer then has to consent prior to download and again when installing the software.

For example, software that displays advertisements or tracks user behavior must disclose what type of ads will be displayed and what information will be tracked, according to the statement. The disclosure must also include which user settings may be altered, and must obtain consent for the download, the statement said.

Furthermore, easy instructions to uninstall the software must be provided and displayed ads must be labeled with the name of the ad-serving software.

A "whitelist" of approved applications will be provided to the program sponsors, who can use it to make decisions about advertising, partnering or distributing software, according to the statement. Truste already certifies and monitors Web site privacy and e-mail practices.