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US Commerce Dept. Wants You To Shop Safely Without Pants

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Photo by Calla Cakes via LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr

Photo by Calla Cakes via LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
By Nick Wilson/Special to LAist

Online shopping offers many benefits: unprecedented selection, effortless price comparison, and the ability to buy that Kobe beef iPod Nano case you’ve secretly coveted without wasting energy on unnecessary chores like putting pants on.

Despite the benefits, online shopping is not without its headaches. In addition to the burden of keeping track of different logins and passwords, cybercrime is a growing threat. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, US consumers lost $560 million to online fraud last year.

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The US Commerce Department hopes to change all of that. Bloomberg reports, “The U.S. Commerce Dept. is spearheading a new online security system that experts say will eliminate the password maze and perhaps boost e-commerce. The plan calls for a single sign-in each time a computer or phone is turned on, using a device such as a digital token, a smartcard, or a fingerprint reader. Once logged in, users would have access to any website that has signed up for the program.”

While it is easy to see how the initiative could ease the burden on consumers, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke sees it as a way to boost e-commerce. “The Internet will not reach its full potential until users and consumers feel more secure and confident than they do today when they go online,” Locke said.

In a recent interview with MSNBC’s Herb Weisbaum, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said, “When we look at the National Strategies for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, the whole issue is not only to provide privacy enhancing technologies led by the private sector, but also options. Because not everybody wants to have a fob, not everybody wants to have a smart card, not everyone wants to use a smartphone. As the industry develops options, this helps us move away from an environment where you’ve got to remember all of these passwords.”

To ease privacy concerns, Commerce Dept. officials say the system will be voluntary and will not feature a central database containing user information.

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