• United States
Contributing Writer

Mailbag: Trust issues dog e-commerce

Jul 29, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Readers weigh in on e-commerce trust issues

After reading my article on how trust issues continue to put a thorn in the side of e-commerce, a colleague sent me this note:

“I do find it strange that people would give their information via paper or voice to total strangers, and not the Web, but it may stem from the fact that, particularly for older generations where ideas like ‘a man’s word is gold’ and ‘shake on it’ held some weight, trust is simply more achievable when its a human being and not a software system one is dealing with.”

A similar response came from a reader who says he shies away from online shopping:

“There will always be a conflict between the desire of businesses and agencies to gather information about Internet readers and the desire of Internet readers to maintain their privacy and be free of snooping, no matter how well intentioned. The ever-growing phenomena of spam, mysterious pop-ups and scripts, online fraud, and covert intelligence gathering of many kinds, all conspire to limit the long-term potential of online shopping. No matter how inconvenient, there is something reassuring about dealing face to face with a local merchant.”

One reader says it’s not just the shopping anymore that concerns him. It’s that everywhere you go and everything you sign up for – even in person – asks you to offer up a tremendous amount of personal information.

“It seems that the gathering of personal information has become a national pastime everywhere (Do you use a discount card to get the best price at your grocery store?), and I have decided that I would rather not participate. I have no deep dark secrets to hide, it’s just that the less information there is about me out there, the less chance someone has of exploiting it.”

A security expert at an ISP wrote in that he still believes the stakes are too high regarding privacy and the ease of compromising information.

“If it is easy for me to access my information, it is also easy for anyone else to access that information. Of course, there [is] security in place. However, looking at the current security practice, there is still a small chance that security can be compromised. To me that small chance is still too high. Security should be total security, i.e. 100% secure. Not 99.99%.”

And he joins the majority of readers who wrote in who rely on face-to-face contact to establish trust.

“Too many errors (or in human case, mistakes) introduced. As we all know, if there is any error, it is quite a feat to resolve (takes time to resolve for both parties). Errors can be introduced from human, from network (there was a hiccup between consumer’s computer and servers), from computer/servers (there was a bug in the software, as an example). I like to minimize errors that will be introduced into the pool.”

Thanks to everyone who wrote in. As always, if you have a comment, send it to