The Naked Supplier

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, in cyberspace everyone is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma behind a firewall. Knowing for sure that the customer or supplier you're dealing with is in fact who he or she claims to be has never been more...


Sodbinow, in a report on GeoTrust for the Seybold Group, notes that GeoTrust has to date accumulated a database with information on about  12 million companies, even though only a fraction of those companies have signed up for GeoTrust authentication. While none of the warehoused information becomes part of a trust profile until a company registers with GeoTrust, even public companies might feel queasy about having so much valuable information in one place that they cannot control, Sodbinow writes.

To allay concerns about its practices, GeoTrust established an Ethics and Policy Advisory Council and charged the group with helping to refine the trust model that underlies the company's work and with ensuring that GeoTrust maintains its own authority as a fair and unbiased information provider. Sodbinow cites the council as a significant advantage for GeoTrust: It's for the best that a company has that much concern about what it's doing and would put such a body in place. It speaks well for its willingness to make sure that what it does is what it's supposed to do.

GeoTrust was not the first or last company to enter the increasingly crowded online trust market. Dun & Bradstreet's eccelerate provides a similar offering and has the advantage of direct access to the parent company's extensive database as opposed to GeoTrust's indirect access, through its alliance with Open Ratings. Other companies are offering digital certificate software that ensures the security of online communications.

It goes without saying that GeoTrust is betting that it (along with other trust providers) can sufficiently allay the fears of potential participants in   e-marketplaces and thereby help the online exchanges attain the twin Holy Grails of liquidity and profitability. That is by no means a sure bet, given the difficulty that many exchanges have had in attracting buyers and sellers. But it is more certain that if the online exchange model does find eventual acceptance and viability in the marketplace, Safe Market or some similar facility will be a part of what exchange users will come to expect when they go online to buy or sell.

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