Clinton, Ahern digitally sign e-commerce agreement

President Clinton and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern tipped their hats to electronic commerce in Dublin Friday, when the two leaders used digital signature technology to append their personal "signatures" to a statement endorsing broad e-commerce policy concerns.It was the first time a major agreement between countries had been finalized with digital imprimaturs.

President Clinton and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern tipped their hats to electronic commerce in Dublin Friday, when the two leaders used digital signature technology to append their personal "signatures" to a statement endorsing broad e-commerce policy concerns.

It was the first time a major agreement between countries had been finalized with digital imprimaturs.



Have an opinion on this story? Add your comments to the bottom of this page.




Digital signatures are a form of encryption -- that is, the secure encoding of data -- that allows viewers to confirm who a document is from and to make certain that it has not been tampered with.



Clinton, Ahern make history.




Rather than using a pen to sign a paper document, the two leaders sat at notebook computers, inserted cards containing their "signature" data, and entered their PINs, thus signing the U.S.-Ireland communiqui on e-commerce.

The technology promises to allow companies to sign contracts across the Internet and enhance security for electronic commerce by verifying the customer's identity.

It was the first time a major agreement between countries had been finalized with digital signatures
"Digital signatures are really taking off," said Sean Rodgers, spokesman for Baltimore Technologies Ltd., the Dublin-based company that provided the signature technology for the event. "People are going to be using digital signatures every day on the Internet without realizing it."

Companies don't want to add steps to e-commerce, so future digital signatures will most likely be hidden from users, said Rodgers. "If we make e-commerce more difficult, it will take off more slowly," said Rodgers, and no company wants that. "We need to reduce the process to point-and-click," he said.

Policy encourages e-commerce
Baltimore Technologies just opened up its first U.S. office in Boston, and will open a second in Silicon Valley later this year.

The statement signed by President Clinton and Ahern endorsed a proactive policy for both Ireland and the U.S. in pursuing Internet commerce.

In the statement, the two countries agreed to:

Eliminate unnecessary regulations and barriers to e-commerce.

Cooperate on administering taxes and laws on the Internet.

Refrain from imposing customs on Internet commerce.

Enforce privacy regulations, intellectual property rights and rights to access for citizens.

President Clinton joked that digital signatures could take away most of what it means to be president.

Clinton makes a funny
"By the time you become the leader of a country, someone else makes all the decisions -- you just sign your name," he said in his speech.

The ceremony was performed at a Gateway Inc. plant in the suburbs of Dublin, with Gateway CEO Ted Waitt acting as master of ceremonies.