By Fickenscher, Lisa
American Banker , Vol. 162, No. 179
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants introduced a certification system Tuesday designed to ease the public's concerns about the safety of electronic commerce.
A "seal of assurance" called CPA WebTrust will vouch for a Web site's data security, integrity, and privacy.
The CPA group, working with its Canadian counterpart organization and the digital certification company Verisign Inc., said it hopes to preempt government regulation while helping merchants, financial institutions, transaction processors, and others to achieve their on-line commerce goals.
CPA WebTrust is not the first such proposed seal of approval, but it may be the most ambitious. Numerous high-technology companies have backed the Electronic Frontier Foundation's "trust mark" system or the Open Profiling Standard for consumer privacy.
The MasterCard and Visa associations will also be certifying systems that comply with their Secure Electronic Transactions protocol.
Most of those programs are narrowly focused on security characteristics, said Barry C. Melancon, president of the U.S. accountants group. "We are providing an actual service," including compliance enforcement, he said.
The accountants' seal, in the form of a license, would provide assurance that the information a consumer provides in the course of electronic commerce would not be compromised.
At a press conference, Mr. Melancon said the idea came out of government concern over electronic privacy and is in keeping with a recent White House document, "A Framework for Global Electronic Commerce."
"WebTrust will provide greater consumer disclosure," said Everett C. Johnson, a partner at Deloitte & Touche and chairman of the CPA group's electronic commerce task force. …