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WEB SITE EVALUATION of  http://www.truste.org

by

Marilyn Bishop  MD, MPH

Rosalee (Roz) Seymour  EdD, RN, CS 

While doing research for an ethics paper I found the TRUSTe Privacy Seal associated with the privacy statements of some online pharmacies.  TRUSTe is a non-profit organization that promotes a system of self-governance to establish appropriate industry privacy standards.  A ten-member board of directors comprised of consumer and privacy advocates, and industry representatives govern the organization.  The board members and the organizations that they represent are listed on the web page (http://www.truste.org)

The TRUSTe  siteís uniform resource locator (URL) is http://www.truste.orgIn the URL, http refers to Hyper Text Transfer Protocol which is the type of protocol utilized to transfer data and refers to the specific protocol that transfers web pages.  The cryptic:// is a separator.  The www denotes that the computer is acting as a web server.  The domain name, truste, identifies that it is the TRUSTe organization and that the web site resides on their server.  The domain designation, .org, indicates that this entity is a non-profit organization.      

The intended audience appears to be web publishers, web users, parents and teachers, and government regulators.  The home page (http://www.truste.org) is categorized according to the type of visitor so that pertinent information could be easily accessed depending on the nature of the visitorís needs.  The home page (http://www.truste.org) provides embedded links to other pages, or documents sponsored by TRUSTe.  For example, web publishers were linked to web pages within the site that specifically addressed the development of privacy statements to meet their business needs.  They were also instructed how to receive and apply for endorsement by the TRUSTe organization and also the cost of the endorsement.  Hyperlinks are  provided to web sites that cover policy development, consumer activities, as well as to recent news items. 

The TRUSTe organization is considered an industry leader in working to establish and verify adherance of web sites to privacy principles of disclosure, choice, access, and security.  The web site  (http://www.truste.org) contains several references to TRUSTe collaboration with U.S. governmental agency initiatives as well as their involvement on an international basis.  President Clinton endorsed the organization and its efforts for self-regulation in a speech he gave in March 2000.  This endorsement was quoted in the web document   http://www.truste.org/about/about_clintonspeech.html    Evidence of sanction for the site and the organization is important because it helps the user to establish credibility and legitimacy. 

The web site (http://www.truste.org) publishes a quarterly newsletter regarding recent news items and initiatives on privacy policy that lends to the accountability of the site and the organization.  It does recruit members for its TRUSTe seal program, through the site, and recruits members for its Privacy Partnership a business coalition dedicated to implementing an industry wide approach to education.  The organization may be contacted via e-mail, phone, fax or mail.       

This site (http://www.truste.org) is of help in understanding the nature of privacy and dissemination of information practices on the web.  These are critical issues in the healthcare environment and concerns for these issues are of utmost importance when establishing practices for conducting business especially as related to a personís healthcare information.  TRUSTe has a mechanism in place for ensuring compliance with its principles.  It has the TRUSTe Watchdog, which allows a private individual to report a TRUSTe licensed site that may not have complied with its privacy policy.  TRUSTe also conducts compliance reviews and breaches may result in an on-site compliance review by a CPA firm, reporting to the attorney general office at the state or federal level, reporting to the Federal Trade Agency or the Consumer Protection Agency.  

There are references on the site (http://www.truste.org) as to actions taken by the TRUSTe organization against businesses that had severely breached  their privacy policy.  The backbone of the TRUSTe program is the contract that is signed between TRUSTe and the web site.  This contract gives TRUSTe the ability to address usersí privacy concerns regardless of their citizenship or the location of the TRUSTe licensee.   

It also is informative as to the global policies and initiatives that exist with respect to privacy and dissemination practices.  Agencies in the US are limited by their geographic jurisdiction but there are global efforts, such as TRUSTe, within the e-commerce industry to address these issues of privacy, security and dissemination of information.  Since online pharmacies, for example, are not limited by geographic boundaries and collect personal information, initiatives such as TRUSTe are critical to building the trust and confidence of both consumers and healthcare providers.  

We recommend this site to anyone examining the issues of privacy, security, and dissemination of information.

 

Citation

Bishop, M. & Seymour, R. (April, 2001).  WEB SITE EVALUATION of  http://www.truste.org. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI). Vol. 5, No. 1. [Online]. Available at http://www.hhdev.psu.edu/nurs/ojni/website_evaluation.htm.