Trustmark Schemes Struggle to Protect Privacy (2008)

4. Transience

Consumer confidence in trustmarks has also been shaken by their transient nature. More trustmark schemes have disappeared than have survived, and it is difficult for consumers to invest their trust in this form of privacy protection:

Trustmarks can fade. Some trustmarks continue to exist, but the organizations that stand behind them and attempt to provide ‘heft’ to the mark itself have long since evaporated. In this case, the mark remains but its meaning fades... While the programs may have closed, the trustmarks remain on some sites.[47]

The most significant demise has been the withdrawal of the BBB Online Privacy Seal service. At its peak this service had accredited over 700 websites. New applications ended in 2007 and the complete service (including managing complaints for existing accredited sites) ceased on 1 July 2008.[48] Many sites still display the seal. BBB Online does provide a generic Reliability Seal. However, the privacy standards required under this service are significantly lower than those required under the Privacy Seal.

In Australia, the high profile privacy trustmark ‘eTick’ was established in 2001. It suffered a financial collapse in 2002 and was withdrawn.[49] It remains the only high profile example of a privacy web seal in Australia. Despite the withdrawal of eTick in 2002, both eBay Australia[50] and eBay India[51] still display their eTick logos in 2008, including links from their help pages.

The web privacy seal graveyard includes other prominent examples such as controlscan, enshrine, web trader, trust UK and safetrade.[52]

[47] Leading Edge Forum, Transparency and Assurance: Putting a Measure on Digital Trust, published in Digital Trust series, Volume 7, 2008, <>.

[48] Better Business Bureau (BBBOnLine), BBBOnLine Privacy Seal, 2003, <>.

[49] Greenblat E, eTick sacks CEO, reviews finances, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 August 2002, <>.

[50] eBay, Privacy Central, accessed 10 September 2008, <>.

[51] eBay, Internet Standards Certification, accessed 10 September 2008, <>.

[52] Rao V, Cerpa N, Jamieson R, A Comparison of Online Electronic Commerce Assurance Service Providers in Australia, 14th Bled Electronic Commerce Convention, June 25-26 2001, <\1256E9F003123C8/$File/33_Rao.pdf>.