Banks Unite To Develop E-Commerce Digital Certificates



Eight global banks have formed a joint venture to create a new type of digital certificate, which they hope will give companies conducting electronic commerce more confidence about the identity of the people on the other end of transactions.

The participating banks intend to create common technical guidelines for digital certificates--which are essentially electronic IDs that vouch for a user's identity--and issue them to their own corporate customers. The banks are ABN AMRO, Bank of America, Bankers Trust, Barclays Bank, Chase Manhattan, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, and Hypo Vereinsbank. CertCo, a provider of digital certificates, is also a partner in the for-profit venture, to be named and formally launched early next year.

The venture also aims to provide "a fundamental risk- management function" for companies conducting Internet commerce by establishing procedures to follow should they be defrauded while using the certificates, says Guy Tallent, VP of E-commerce strategy at Chase Manhattan. Bank executives say they will work on an infrastructure for issuing and distributing their digital certificates but they won't work together to promote adoption of them by their respective customers.

The banks' effort will compete with existing attempts to create a standard for digital certificates. The American Bankers Association is working on being a "trusted third party" in issuing digital certificates for U.S. banks, and IBM joined in June with credit agency Equifax Inc. to perform a similar function.

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