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November 4, 2003

Experts can talk about trust issues

Purdue University experts can talk about trust issues, such as trusting online financial transactions, trust in the computer age and building trust between countries.


Online businesses need to build trust for financial transactions

If more consumers are going to trust online commerce, businesses selling on the Internet need to do a better job communicating about their own security for financial transactions, says a Purdue University communication expert.

"Personal buying on the Internet has a lot of promise, especially when it comes to saving time, but if people are afraid to use it because of distrust, then those benefits are lost," says Josh Boyd, assistant professor of communication who studies security communication.

Boyd, also a member of Purdue's Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security, says some Web sites that ask for credit card information provide detailed explanations about their measures of security. However, some Web sites don't acknowledge the threat or highlight what precautions have been taken.

"It's about individual perception," Boyd says. "The continued growth of online interactions, particularly those regarding money, depend on understanding, gaining and maintaining the trust of current nonusers. My work analyzes how messages work to convey a level of trust."

According to the American Marketing Association, more than 70 percent of businesses are buying goods and services online.

Boyd also can talk about studies he has conducted on messages that show consumers what security measures have been taken, and the online auction study he conducted about eBay.

CONTACT: Boyd, (765) 494-3333,


Purdue scientists make computer-age trust easier

What if sharing private information would make your business a profit today, but might destroy your competitive edge tomorrow? That is the trouble facing many firms and individuals who are wary of revealing secrets to outsiders, even when doing so could benefit both parties. But a team of Purdue computer scientists is working on ways to help get both sides the answers they need – and without the risk.

Purdue's Mikhail "Mike" Atallah and his research group develop special software that encrypts information so two parties can work together to solve problems, even when they do not necessarily trust one another. As each side's information is never seen by the other, the two can share information without fear of compromising their own privacy.

"What happens if, in the future, you want your DNA tested to see if you may be at risk for cancer? You want to know if you should stop smoking, but if an insurance company gets hold of your test results, you may find yourself uninsurable," said Atallah, who is professor of computer sciences in Purdue's School of Science. "With the software we are developing, you could send your DNA blueprint to a testing company and get the answer you want, yet keep it to yourself. You get your information, they get paid, and the secrets stay secret. Problems like this will become an increasingly important issue as the information age progresses."

Atallah's research group has licensed their technology to a company that wants to compare fingerprints without sharing them, and the group has recently delivered several papers on their work at scientific conferences. Atallah is available to discuss the work's relationship to past research in the field and its implications for the future.

CONTACT: Atallah, (765) 494-6017,


What does it take for countries to build trust?

International rivals, like the Israelis and Palestinians, need a "great compromise" to overcome their suspicion of one another and develop trusting relationships, says a Purdue political scientist.

"Obtaining trust would require two steps," says Aaron Hoffman, an international relations expert who studies trust between countries. "First, create a congress made up of Israeli and Palestinian representatives that ensures both sides the ability to influence decisions affecting issues of concern to both sides.

"Second, Israeli and Palestinian leaders need to protect one another from the inevitable backlash each will face from citizens that oppose a peace agreement."

For example, Hoffman says trust can be established if the sides provide one another financial support that can be used to reduce the sacrifices Israelis and Palestinians must make to forge a lasting peace.

CONTACT: Hoffman, (765) 496-6775 or (765) 420-8998,