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-- by James E. Powell
The idea of electronic commerce-doing business over the Internet-has just about every company positively drooling. So far, however, promise has far outpaced reality. And the biggest roadblock seems to be a lack of trust.
A recent study from the Boston Consulting Group estimates that as much as $6 billion in additional electronic commerce could be gained by the year 2000 if consumers' privacy issues were better addressed. For example, it found that 41 percent of poll respondents leave Web sites when asked to provide registration information; another 27 percent give false information.
Some solutions are emerging. For example, Silicon Valley-based eTRUST. offers a branded system of "trustmarks," which indicate that the Web site sponsor agrees to a set of privacy guidelines and standards. For the corporate market, IBM and Dun & Bradstreet have teamed up to deliver identity-checking capabilities using information in D&B's databases. And Certicom has licensed its Elliptic curve cryptosystem (ECC) technology for a special version of Terisa's SecureWeb Toolkit. It adds a much higher level of security by employing ECC to provide data integrity with low-overhead encryption and digital signatures.
As e-commerce hits the mainstream, there'll be more solutions. Of course, without those solutions, it may not penetrate the mainstream in the first place.