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Privacy Concerns Increase

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E-commerce management expert Mitchell Levy explains how privacy concerns will increase as the public becomes more aware of how their Web site activity can be tracked, profiled, and merged with data collected from multiple offline sources to reveal very "personal" information.
This article is adapted from and used by permission of ECMgt.com, Mitchell Levy, Executive Producer. Levy is also the author of E-Volve-or-Die.com: Thriving in the Internet Age Through E-Commerce Management.

Copyright © 2000, ECnow.com, All rights reserved.

Introduction

Privacy issues have always been a key reason for potential online consumers to avoid e-commerce. In the early days of e-commerce, a significant percentage of consumers thought that credit cards could be "snatched" off the Internet. Solid encryption using SSL has reduced most of those fears, and for the most part, new consumers don't worry about losing credit cards while online. However, as the Internet assumes "real world" status, issues that concern all consumers have migrated to the Web, including

  • Duplication and forgery, meaning buying from a copycat site

  • Unauthorized access to stored data, especially personal information and transaction history

  • Theft of credit card numbers from servers

Of all these, access to purchase history worries consumers most, as "anonymity" and privacy in purchasing is cited by 40% of Internet shoppers as a major reason for purchasing over the Internet.

Many consumers don't want any personal information on the Internet, period. But this opens up the biggest issue; as most vertical industries, especially insurance, health care, government, and retail, are creating intranets and extranets for suppliers and partners, and Web sites for consumers, all of our most sensitive data is being interconnected over TCP/IP networks. Network and server security, now a $14 billion industry, is about letting the right people access data, and keeping everyone else out. As e-commerce creates automated computer-to-computer purchases over networks in a "lights-out" mode, the integrity of front- and back-end systems—and the financial networks they connect to—is paramount to global commerce. Firewalls, encryption, virtual private networks, and biometric authentication are just some of the tools in the arsenal that businesses deploy, collectively, to deter unauthorized activity.

For operators of Web sites, intrusion and attack by hackers, most recently of the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) type, have created an environment where operating a successful commerce site requires more than a novice knowledge of security. Very few Web-based businesses have experience in online attacks, especially from international hackers with very high skills at intrusion.

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