Web Trust - The Next Revolution*

Dr. Sarika Kulkarni
India Infoline.com
2nd Fl. Can Bank Bldg, Adi Marzban Path
Ballard Estate, Mumbai-400038
Email: sarika@indiainfoline.com

Fears related to Electronic Commerce

Web and Trust - what an antithesis. Where there is WEB there cannot be trust and where you want trust you cannot rely on the web. This mindset is what is disalllowing Electronic Commerce from reaching its glory, attaining a position of strength. Despite everything, inspite of all the assurances we all think twice, thrice before consummating a buy on the net. Though global in nature, Electronic Commerce is still very much Local in its operation. I for one would never want to buy anything from a site which is not based in India. Window shopping is all right, I can at least make them that much happy by increasing their hits and page views and probably give them some hope. But buying - definitely a No No. Frankly only recently I have increased my horizons to even include other parts of India, I was finicky to the extent of buying only from sites based in Mumbai. At least I can go and fight with them if they do not deliver or deliver late or not in good condition. But what will I do if the site is Swedish or Pakistani for that matter? Who will intervene? Electronic Commerce is faceless. Crooks, frauds and all other in this category can easily get away by designing aesthetic and attractive looking web sites. What would make me trust a Buy? Then there are other issues such as information privacy. The fear of how information pertaining to me would be used?. What happens to the credit card number that I need to furnish to buy? Can I update my information? Can I get my information deleted from the site at any future date? What kind of encryption techniques do they have in place? All these and many more such thoughts start haunting me the moment I decide to click on SUBMIT button.

But Hope is finally coming. Soon we may actually start believing the new expression doing rounds on the Net circuit - Web Trust.

Web Trust - Introduction

Web Trust is actually a Seal of Assurance which would be put up on the site to ensure the customers that the people behind the show are genuine, their intentions are honorable, their business policies are unquestionable, their information privacy methods and security techniques are fool proof. In short, they are totally safe to deal with.

Web Trust is the baby of American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA). National Arbitration Forum (NAF) has also participated in the program.

Web Trust Principles and Criterion for evaluating a site

There are three broad principles for evaluating a site.

• Business and Information Privacy Practices
• Transaction Integrity
• Information Protection

Each of this principle is then divided into several criteria. Each criterion in turn is assessed on the basis of the type of site i.e. whether it is pure information based site, or conducts e-commerce as well, or is involved in online banking transactions, or also in online securities trading. The site owner must furnish relevant information, i.e. disclose business practices in all of these columns which are applicable to him. The entity must be in conformity with these criteria to obtain and maintain its Web Trust Seal.

The entity must be able to demonstrate over a period of time (at least two months) that (1) it executed transactions in accordance with the business practices it discloses for e-commerce transactions, (2) it controls operations effectively, (3) it maintains a control environment that is conducive to reliable business practice disclosures and effective controls, and (4) it maintains monitoring procedures to ensure that such business practices remain current and such controls remain effective in conformity with the Web Trust Criteria. These concepts are integral parts of the Web Trust Criteria.

The CPA and The CA as Assurance Professionals

CPAs and CAs are in the business of providing assurance services, the most publicly recognized of which is the audit of financial statements. An audit opinion signed by a CPA or CA is valued because these professionals are experienced in assurance matters and financial accounting subject matter and are recognized for their independence, integrity, discretion, and objectivity. CPAs and CAs also follow comprehensive ethics rules and professional standards in providing their services. However, financial statement assurance is only one of the many kinds of assurance services that can be provided by a CPA or CA. CPAs and CAs also provide assurance about internal controls and compliance with specified criteria. The business and professional experience, subject matter expertise (e-commerce information systems security, auditability, and control) and professional characteristics (independence, integrity, discretion, and objectivity) needed for such projects are the same key elements that enable a CPA or CA to comprehensively and objectively assess the risks, controls, and business disclosures associated with e-commerce

Web Trust Seal on the site

The Web Trust Seal of assurance is a symbolic representation of a practitioner's unqualified report. It also indicates to customers that they need to click to see the practitioner's report. This seal can be displayed on the entity's Web site together with links to the practitioner's report and other relevant information.

Already a lot of web sites have obtained this seal of assurance and a lot many are in the process. The ones that have shown dynamism in obtaining the seal are mostly from the Financial Sector and the Health sector. But others are following suit. It's just a matter of time before sites in India too will have to adhere to the global norms and get themselves audited.

For customers it will be a situation of faith and confidence. For the genuine businessmen, it will easily give them the respect and immediate recognition and this will naturally help them grow. And finally for e commerce it will be growth, prosperity and more growth. A total win-win-win situation.

* Reproduced verbatim with the permission of the Author. Editor
Copyright 2000 India Infoline.com. All rights reserved.

Information Today & Tomorrow, Vol. 19, No. 3, September 2000, p.21-p.22