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Exchange of attribute credentials is a means to establish mutual trust between strangers wishing to share resources or conduct business transactions. Automated Trust Negotiation (ATN) is an approach to regulate the exchange of sensitive information during this process. It treats credentials as potentially sensitive resources, access to which is under policy control. Negotiations that correctly enforce policies have been called safe in the literature. Prior work on ATN lacks an adequate definition of this safety notion. In large part, this is because fundamental questions such as what needs to be protected in ATN? and what are the security requirements? are not adequately answered. As a result, many prior methods of ATN have serious security holes. We introduce a formal framework for ATN in which we give precise, usable, and intuitive definitions of correct enforcement of policies in ATN. We argue that our chief safety notion captures intuitive security goals under both possibilistic and probabilistic analysis. We give precise comparisons of this notion with two alternative safety notions that may seem intuitive, but that are seen to be inadequate under closer inspection. We prove that an approach to ATN from the literature meets the requirements set forth in the preferred safety definition, thus validating the safety of that approach, as well as the usability of the definition.