Web-traffic measurement service Nielsen//NetRatings confirmed this week that online privacy seal program TRUSTe, Cupertino, CA, had more than 1.2 billion impressions in August, characterizing it as the top advertiser on the Web for the month. However, according to privacy advocates, it was a stretch to categorize the frequency of TRUSTe seal impressions on the Internet as equal to paid banner-advertising promotions.
Ari Schwartz, policy analyst with the Center for Democracy and Technology, Washington, said the TRUSTe organization “had moved a far way toward providing protections” but the “[CDT’s] most recent report shows that the TRUSTe seal is still confusing to users.”
He declined to comment on how TRUSTe and Nielsen//NetRatings had characterized their numbers, which puts TRUSTe’s results at nearly double the banner ad impressions of industry giant Microsoft and almost triple the number posted by Amazon.com.
“What it really means is how many times on the Web the seal appears. What we’re announcing is that consumers have the tools they need. We are not talking about how many times consumers click on a banner or our seal,” said Dave Steer, TRUSTe’s manager of communications.
A spokeswoman for Nielsen//NetRatings said the numbers reflected the total number of times TRUSTe’s ad banners and seals were served to the entire Web population for August. “Nielsen//NetRatings Web research includes all banner advertising and buttons in its audience measurement service. In the case of TRUSTe, it was believed that a lot of branding was being derived from the symbol’s recognition.”
At press time, however, Nielsen was unable to clarify the actual distinctions it makes between banners and buttons vs. other popular online imagery, such as Netscape’s indicia or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer logo, which appear on America Online browser software.
Nielsen//NetRatings is the Internet audience measurement service from Nielsen Media Research and NetRatings Inc., New York.