Digital Signatures: Will Government Regulation of Users Mean That Anonymity in Transactions on the Internet Is Forever Lost?

Internet consumers have long taken anonymity for granted. In-creases in commerce in cyberspace have created a need for consumer protection measures on the Internet. Digital signatures seek to meet this need in two important ways. First, they provide validation of data and identity to ensure that information has not changed between origin and reception. Second, they validate identity if pseudonyms or other anony-mous processes are not used. This note argues that digital signature laws must be carefully crafted with consumer protection in mind. Problems may arise as governments, both state and federal, opt to serve as both authentication agencies and parties to electronic transactions. Depending on how digital certificates are issued, governments could have the capability to connect actual consumer identity information with digital signatures, thereby defeating the signatures’ intended purpose. In addition, this note compares legislation from several states, as well as European legislation, and suggests that consumers and legislators need to make consumer privacy central to any viable digital signature legislation.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.