WebTrust Issues New Guidance, Builds Awareness


Here’s an update on several WebTrust projects currently under way in the AICPA assurance services division.

New guidance

The AICPA electronic commerce task force released version 1.1 of the WebTrust principles and criteria. These principles and criteria address the needs and concerns of e-commerce users and are designed to benefit both users and providers. As e-commerce evolves and important issues such as privacy rights are raised, the task force expects to modify the principles and criteria regularly. Version 1.1 is effective for WebTrust reports dated on or after June 1, 1999. Practitioners must update reports issued on or before May 31, 1999 (under version 1.0), during the client’s next 90-day examination period after the June 1 effective date.

The task force expects to release version 2.0 in the fall. Among other things, the later version will expand the business practices disclosure principle to include new disclosures related to an online business’s information privacy practices and how consumer complaints are to be resolved.

Global expansion continues

Australia has joined the list of countries that have signed WebTrust license agreements with the AICPA. The United Kingdom and Ireland had previously signed. Other countries where agreements are expected shortly include New Zealand, France, Belgium, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany.

Building awareness

The AICPA engaged a consulting firm, Infotech Strategies—which specializes in e-commerce-related issues—to help build awareness and visibility for WebTrust, particularly in policy-making circles in Washington D.C. As part of this initiative, the AICPA has already held face-to-face meetings with the European Union, the Online Privacy Alliance and the Federal Trade Commission. In June, the AICPA participated in the FTC’s public workshop, U.S. Perspectives on Consumer Protection in the Global Electronic Marketplace, and in the European Union’s conference on self-regulation of the e-commerce marketplace.

Commerce secretary cites WebTrust

In a recent statement, Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley pointed to the benefits of CPA WebTrust. Commenting on the results of a survey by the FTC for privacy policy statements on e-commerce Web sites, the secretary said, “The principles established by the Online Privacy Alliance and the seal programs administered by BBB Online, TRUSTe and CPA WebTrust couple strong privacy principles with independent enforcement mechanisms, creating real protection for personal information on the Internet.” The full text of Daly’s remarks is available at http://204.193.246.62/public.nsf/docs/survey-shows-two-thirds-of-web-sites-post-privacy-policies .

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