“Trust but verify” is an old Russian proverb that former president Ronald Reagan used in arms negotiations with his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev. Earlier this week, the FTC alleged TRUSTe, an entity that offers certified privacy seals for companies to display on their websites, had failed to verify that companies had the right to display the TRUSTe seal.
In Count I of its complaint, the FTC alleged that although TRUSTe stated on its own website that websites certified by TRUSTe must undergo annual recertification to verify ongoing compliance with TRUSTe’s requirements. TRUSTe did not conduct recertification for more than 1,000 websites between 2006 and 2013. This meant that those websites represented to customers that they were TRUSTe certified with best privacy practices, when in fact they had not undergone recertification and could have slacked in their privacy policies. The FTC alleged that TRUSTe’s conduct constituted a deceptive act or practice.