Two privacy groups have joined forces to launch an email certification programme to protect consumers from receiving unwanted or malicious email.
Truste and the ePrivacy Group said that Microsoft, DoubleClick and Topica have agreed to support the beta test software.
Other supporters include ClickAction, the International Association of Privacy Officers and the Association of Interactive Marketing.
Dubbed Trusted Sender, the program allows companies which send out commercial email to attach a stamp to the mail that ensures the authenticity of the sender and the validity of the content.
Fran Maier, executive director at Truste, said: "Consumers consider spam as an intrusion of their privacy. With Trusted Sender, consumers will now have guideposts to allow them to easily verify the legitimacy of emails, gain greater control over their inbox and turn to a third party to resolve disputes."
The groups also said that the programme would provide a dispute resolution service through Truste that will mediate on any disputes or complaints about Trusted Sender.
Currently in a trial phase, every email sent by a Trusted Sender certified company will include a unique seal in the top right corner of the email. When the consumer clicks on the seal, they will be connected to the Trusted Sender computer which verifies the information.
Simson Garfinkel, author of Database Nation and other books on privacy and data protection, explained that the Trusted Sender program combines some of the best features of digital certificates, trust marks and usability.
"The program gives consumers a simple-to-use, reliable and cryptographically secure means for verifying the authenticity and legitimacy of commercial email," he said.
The move comes at a time when industry concerns over the increasing levels of spam are growing. According to Jupiter Media Metrix, consumers are expected to receive an average of 1,400 pieces of junk email each day by 2006.
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