If the group does find that any application on the list is failing to meet its requirements, Truste has the option of removing the software from the list or putting the involved company on temporary probation until it remedies any problems.
"We definitely respect Ben's work, but our methodology is to try and get companies to improve their practices by offering guidelines and certifications. We think this will push many companies to do a better job with consumer notice and choice," Hodge said. "We don't expect the process to go on without any glitches, but we think we've gotten a good start. In the end we want more applications publishers to meet higher standards, even if it means moving forward one application at a time."
The applications makers themselves say that they are working in good faith to meet the requirements of Trusted Download and prevent their programs from being passed along to end users without permission.
Both ComScore and Vomba officials said they have changed the architecture of their programs so that affiliates no longer handle the applications downloads themselves, but instead pass interested users along to the software makers who handle the implementation and maintenance of the tools.
For instance, ComScore said that it only provides a so-called stub installer to third-party distributors of Relevant Knowledge 1.3. The installer's only function is to call the company's servers to verify that the download of the program has been rightfully approved by the end user.
If any requirements cannot be verified, the relevant Knowledge will never be downloaded on an individual's machine, the company said.
"We stopped doing business with people that we couldn't get to adapt fast enough to the Trusted Download requirements, as we wanted to make sure that the group of people we're working with can provide to the criteria Truste has set," said Christiana L. Lin, chief privacy officer at ComScore. "Our affiliates are contractually required to comply with the privacy requirements we've set forth, and we audit them before paying them for anything they might download onto a user's machine."
Lin said that she believes the technological steps the company has taken have eliminated the problem of unsolicited downloads, and that Relevant Knowledge is meeting Trusted Download's requirements.
Vomba said that it is taking similar measures to prevent abuse, and that it is working hard to build an image that differs from the reputation associated with IST, even though it disputes claims made against that division.
"After the 2005 complaint against IST, and even beforehand, we made a lot of technological changes to have better control of distribution through affiliates," said Karl Bernard, president of both Vomba and IST, which share the same offices.
Bernard said that Vomba and IST are being managed by a new team that is making a concerted effort to be more up front with consumers about its programs. The reason its software won't run in VMware is because the company believes outsiders will use the technology to create altered versions of its applications that bypass the Trusted Download-driven features.
"We learned from IST that when you start giving out executables to affiliates, they can be exposed to all kinds of fraud because someone can modify the code and we can't always know where the content is distributed," Bernard said. "We also learned that when you take a piece of software and bundle it with adware without any link between the programs, it's not an effective business model."