The more online transactions grow in volume, value and criticality, the more important issues related to online trust become. Clearly, there is a need to, as the old Russian proverb recommends, "trust, but verify." And many of the very characteristics that make online transactions seductively easy and fast can make verification of trustworthiness a significant challenge.
TRUSTe is arguably the most experienced provider of solutions intended specifically to enable and verify online trust and privacy, with more than 13 years of work in this arena. The company began life as a non-profit focused on privacy protection, and transformed into a for-profit business in 2007.
TRUSTe provides various services designed to protect private information and to verify the trustworthiness of online businesses. Perhaps best known among these are the company's "privacy seals" and accompanying privacy policies. These appear at the Web sites of many online businesses, including AT&T, Cisco, GoDaddy.com, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Taleo. TRUSTe claims more than 2,500 SMB and enterprise clients and that more than one million people verify its online privacy seals each month.
As doing business online continues to expand and evolve rapidly for consumers and businesspeople alike, TRUSTe is evolving both its organization and its offerings. The company announced a new CEO in December 2009, and a new CFO, VP of Engineering and VP of Business Development in May 2010.
In June 2010, the company announced that it had closed $12 million in Series B funding. The money will be used to enhance sales and marketing, and to deliver new solutions related to advertising, mobility and social media. TRUSTe announced new privacy certification options for mobile applications and Web sites in September, and a "TRUSTed Ads" privacy platform for advertisers in October. (Details about these new offerings will appear in a follow-up Focus Brief.)
The company is also stepping up efforts to educate consumers about the value of its "trustmarks" and related services, and business decision-makers about the need for trust verification services. For example, the company recently partnered with Lightspeed Research to survey more than 2,000 parents and teenagers about online behaviors and awareness of privacy-related issues. The results of the survey, along with specific recommendations for parents and teens, are freely available online.
Such efforts are generating measurable business benefits for TRUSTe's customers and for the company itself, a TRUSTe executive reported. While it does not release specific revenue numbers, its enterprise business is growing at 50 percent per year, while its SMB business is growing at 250 percent annually, the executive said.
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