A group of our friends and co workers were talking about this cool new writing gig I have. Turning the topic into a possible source for future Tech columns, I asked everyone what they used the Internet for. Honestly, most of them are not using it. Yet.
Of the 229 million people over the age of 16 in the U.S. and Canada, about a quarter are using the Internet. About 17 percent of those are on the world wide web. So what is everyone doing while on line? Good question. About three quarters of world wide web users search for information about products and services. That comes to about 5.6 million people who have searched for and purchased something on line. My friend Martin is one of them.
Everything from smoked salmon to sunglasses has been shipped to Martin’s friends and family. “Are you worried someone will get your credit card number?” I asked. “Not really. I’m more concerned someone working in a store will take the information home.” When it comes to personal integrity, frankly the odds are exactly the same on line as in line. When it comes to some criminal snatching your personal data from the internet the odds are weighed very heavily in your favor.
The internet has the advantage of swapping data in secret code. The most popular is called SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer protocol. An encryption tool so advanced it would take the
best computer experts armed with the most powerful computers several 24 hour days to crack a single message. Netscape has recently announced new technology called Secure Courier that will significantly increase the privacy of financially specific data like credit card numbers. Netscape claims it would cost approximately $1,200,000,000 in computer time and man hours to crack a coded transaction and obtain your credit card number.
So just have your credit card and an open mind ready . . . it’s out there. My guess is you’ll be thinking about Internet shopping the next time you head to the mall . . . in the rain . . . on a day when the closest parking spot is a city block away from the entrance. By the way Martin, I just love smoked Salmon. Hint. Hint.