The Google Apps Marketplace opened in March 2010 with over 50 installable Web apps and grew to over 300 a year later. It is a business-oriented version of the Chrome Web Store, launched in December 2010.
Google's goal with the Apps Marketplace has been to simplify the process of Web app discovery, evaluation, and deployment. Businesses that deploy Marketplace apps gain the benefits of Google account single sign-on and access through the universal navigation bar that those with Google accounts see when logged in. Some Marketplace apps also synchronize with Google Apps data.
Such convenience, however, invariably comes with concerns about how these apps handle corporate data. Given the reports of insecure and malicious apps in the Android Market, not to mention ongoing efforts to steal data or dupe users through malicious advertising, it's understandable that business IT managers have asked Google for reassurance about the data handling and privacy practices of Web app vendors.
To address such concerns, TRUSTe has created a certification program by which makers of installable Web apps can make their data and privacy practices more clear to current and potential customers. Certification is free for the first year and $300 for each year thereafter.
"This program, which is optional for vendors, displays a green TRUSTe logo on a certified app's Marketplace listing page as well as search results pages," said Google Apps partner lead Scott McMullan in a blog post. "The logo links then to a certification summary with more specific information about the app."
To be certified, Web app vendors must provide answers to a series of questions to a TRUSTe representative. The questions have to do with how data utilized by a Web app is shared and secured. TRUSTe's certification program is based on privacy frameworks like the U.S.-E.U. Safe Harbor, regulatory guidelines, industry standards, and the expectations of clients and experts.
However, a certification from TRUSTe is not a guarantee of security or proper data handling; it's merely an assessment of whether a particular vendor's self-reported practices fall within industry norms. In the past, TRUSTe has come under fire for being too soft on its clients, which, after all, are paying its bills.
Nevertheless, certifications are important for businesses and vendors, so much so that they're sometimes seen as a competitive advantage. Last month, Microsoft claimed Google wasn't being honest about the status of the FISMA security certification for its Google Apps for Government service, a charge Google rebutted.
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