Privacy Fear over Digital Signatures

Sunday Business (London, England), July 16, 2000 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Privacy Fear over Digital Signatures


BACKLASH by privacy campaigners could hit the growth of e-commerce. Digital signatures, backed up by authentication technology, will allow internet users to realise the full potential of electronic commerce, say government officials and analysts.

But concerns are growing that the adoption of identity verification could be hindered by the pro-privacy lobby.

Authentication aims to ensure that an internet user is who they purport to be a critical factor in e-commerce where the business aim is to secure a successful financial transaction but avoid fraud.

Surfers can be verified by using electronic signatures supported with digital certificates (which prove that a signature belongs to a particular person), or using hardware such as smart cards, biometric measurement (fingerprint or retinal recognition), or embedded chips.

But campaigners say the increasing use of authentication risks forcing users to identify themselves online, infringing their right to privacy by remaining anonymous.

There was uproar last year when it emerged that Intel's Pentium III chip contained an electronic serial number unique to each chip, which could be read over the internet.

The feature was designed to let corporate IT managers track and remotely administer computers as well as making e-commerce more secure. But critics complained it might be used to identify and monitor people online. Intel subsequently released the chip with the feature turned off by default.

Frank Prince, senior analyst at Forrester Research, says privacy demands pose a problem for e-business because the ground-rules have not been set.

'It is a problem because what constitutes inappropriate use of thorough identification of an individual has not yet been established in the electronic environment,' he says.

Prince says the solution to the competing demands of e-commerce and privacy may be to match levels of identification and authentication to the scale and type of transaction.

'There is no reason why there cannot be a variety of middle grounds to do with identification in electronic environments, just as there are in physical environments. An example of a middle ground is the idea of pseudonymity'. Not anonymity, not full identification, but some entity or individual or organisation acting as a cut-out between you and the actual transaction.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Privacy Fear over Digital Signatures


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?