Control and Assurance in E-Commerce: Privacy, Integrity and Security at eBay
Growth of online auctions and other forms of e-commerce has been hampered by concerns about the privacy, integrity, and security of online transactions. To earn the trust of their participants, new e-commerce organizations, like traditional organizations, have to reach the state of expectations equilibrium or control - a state where the actual behavior of participants corresponds to what others expect them to do. Since e-commerce companies provide electronic platforms where buyers and sellers interact directly with each other (as well as with the platform operator), establishing control in e-commerce enterprises requires broadening of the traditional definition of "internal control" to encompass the activities of "outsiders" such as customers, and suppliers. This paper presents a framework for analyzing the control environment of online auctions and identifies privacy and denial of service attacks as two new classes of risks faced by e-commerce companies. Using the control policies and practices of a leading consumer online auction company (eBay) as an illustrative example, we suggest possible ways of controlling these risks. This analysis identifies the demand for new kinds of assurance services for e-commerce to support privacy, integrity and security of online transactions. E-commerce assurance services available at the end of year 2000 (e.g. WebTrust) fall short of what is needed to establish expectations equilibrium or control in online auction firms. The merits of developing proprietary (e.g., PWC privacy standards) versus industry standards (e.g. WebTrust) for e-commerce assurance services are also discussed.
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