OTA Proposes Online Trust Principles

Posted by Tom Bartel on

In our recent webinar with the FTC we confirmed that the agency is open to continued industry self-regulation – as long as they see some action. I suspect that like me, most of us in the email industry prefer the self regulation ideal. We took the opportunity with our conversation with the FTC to point out many examples of how our industry works together to build and maintain trust in email with consumers.

We continue to have an opportunity as service providers and industry associations, to lead our industry by setting and adopting realistic best practices guidelines that businesses can implement. The email and advertising industries are graced with numerous agencies and associations doing just that, including the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG), the Direct Marketing Association, the Email Experience Council, the Email Sender and Provider Coalition, Network Advertising Initiative and the Internet Advertising Bureau, to name a few. Each of these existing industry associations have produced best practice guidance that has resonated with us and helped us manage our businesses properly. The latest effort comes from the Online Trust Alliance (OTA) who has just released a timely draft of Online Trust Principles for public comment.

The thing about any set of principles, and these from the OTA are no exception, is that they are generally straightforward and obvious concepts. The challenge is in presenting them in a way that is clear and demonstrates they are both achievable and worth doing. Many of the principles are baseline practices we should be implementing anyway, and others raise the bar for us.

The trust principles proposed by the OTA have been organized into three areas:

1) Infrastructure, including protection of servers, web sites, desktops and mobile devices;
2) Data that includes both sensitive and Personally Identifiable Information (PII);
3) User Choice, Control and Privacy.

I like this approach. All of these areas have existing regulatory requirements, and/or new pending regulatory requirements, and all could have more future government regulation imposed. We are pleased to call out and support these principles as they represent exactly the kind of guidance that can point the way for the industry and ensure we are doing the right things for consumers and for the health of the online world. And of course we like the fact that the principles endorse use of certification programs like the one run by Return Path!

It takes everyone in the industry, whether innovators and solution providers, or users of those solutions, to develop and protect online trust for our industry. In that spirit, I encourage you to read through the principles and then take the opportunity to comment on them. Make sure your organization’s voice is part of the conversation! That’s industry working together. Also, if you are going to be in Amsterdam next week for the OTA Town Hall & Forum, be sure to stop by as our CEO Matt Blumberg moderates a panel on the principles and what self-regulation means to the online industry.

Of course you can also leave comments on this blog and we will be sure to share them with the folks at OTA.


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About Tom Bartel

Tom Bartel is Return Path’s Senior Vice President of ThreatWave Data. Tom has more than 20 years of email delivery, email data and privacy experience. He most recently joined Return Path through its acquisition of ThreatWave, where he served as CEO/Co-founder. Prior to that, he has held roles at Return Path, MessageMedia (acquired by DoubleClick), and founded several other startups. Tom is actively involved in key industry organizations, such as OTA and M3AAWG, and advises start-ups and non-profits. Tom has a Bachelor in Speech Communication from Colorado State University.

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