The first feature aimed at allaying the fears of shoppers entering into online transactions is the American Express Online Wallet. Members enter purchase information, such as card details and home address. When making an online purchase the user opens the wallet, clicks on a "complete purchase" button and the vendor's form is automatically filled in.
For the really paranoid American Express is also offering a second level of protection, in the form of a smart card reader. Built into the Blue card is a chip that can be read by a smart card reader, provided free, attached to the user's PC. The embedded chip holds a unique digital certificate that acts to unlock the Online Wallet once the user has swiped his card through the reader and entered their PIN number.
The card has been launched in the US only at present. A spokesperson for American Express said, "In the US we kept hearing that one of the main barriers to taking up online shopping for those new to the Internet was security worries, and so this seemed like the perfect time to introduce a product to try and reassure our customers." She could not confirm plans for an UK launch, saying, "We'll have to see how it does here first."
Nick Jones, analyst for Jupiter Communications, is impressed by the security measures offered by the card. "Digital wallets are definitely a good move, both for the consumer and the retailer," he said. "Offering the card reader is smart, it gives consumers an extra hand to hold onto. Although the process of having to attach an extra device to your PC may give them another thing to be worried about."
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