Terms conveyed by means of policy in electronic business have become a common way to express permissions and limitations in online transactions. Doctrine and standards have contributed to determining policy frameworks and making them mandatory in certain areas such as electronic signatures. A typical example of limitations conveyed through policy in electronic signatures includes certificate policies that Certification Authorities (CAs) typically make available to subscribers and relying parties. Trade partners might also use policies to convey limitations to the way electronic signatures are accepted within specific business frameworks. Examples of transaction constraints might include limitations in roles undertaken to carry out an action in a given context, which can be introduced by means of attribute certificates. Relying parties might also use signature policies to denote the conditions for the validation and verification of electronic signatures they accept. Furthermore, signature policies might contain additional transaction-specific limitations in validating an electronic signature addressed to end users. Largescale transactions that involve the processing of electronic signatures in a mass scale within diverse applications rely on policies to convey signature-related information and limitations in a transaction. As legally binding statements, policies are used to convey trust in electronic business. Extending further the use of policy in transaction environments can enhance security, legal safety, and transparency in a transaction. Additional improvements are required, however, in order to render applicable terms that are conveyed through policy and enforce them unambiguously in a transaction. The remainder of this article discusses common concepts of policies and certain applications thereof.
An early example of a transaction framework is open EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) that aims at using openly available structured data formats and is delivered over open networks. While the main goal of open EDI has been to enable short-term or ad hoc commercial transactions among organisations (Kalakota & Whinson, 1996), it has also aimed at lowering the entry barriers of establishing structured data links between trading partners by minimising the need for bilateral framework agreements, known as interchange agreements. One specific requirement of open EDI is to set up the operational and contract framework within which a transaction is carried out. Automating the process of negotiating and executing agreements regarding the legal and technical conditions for open EDI can significantly lower the entry barriers, especially for non-recurrent transactions (Mitrakas, 2000).
Building on the model for open EDI, the Business Collaboration Framework is a set of specifications and guides, the centre of which is the UN/CEFACT; it aims at further lowering the entry barriers of electronic commerce based on structured data formats. The need for flexibility and versatility to loosely coupled applications and communication on the Internet has led to the emergence of Web services. A Web service is a collection of protocols and standards that are used to exchange data between applications. While applications can be written in various languages and run on various platforms, they can use Web services to exchange data over the Internet.
In Web services, using open standards ensures interoperability. These standards also include formal descriptions of models of business procedures to specify classes of business transactions that all serve the same goal. A trade procedure stipulates the actions, the parties, the order, and the timing constraints on performing actions (Lee, 1996). In complex business situations, transaction scenarios typically might belong to a different trade partner that each one owns a piece of that scenario. Associating a scenario with a trade partner often requires electronic signatures. When a trade partner signs with an electronic signature, she might validate or approve of the way that individual procedural components might operate within a transaction. The signatory of an electronic document or a transaction procedure depends on the performance of complex and often opaque-to-the-end-user systems.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Public Key Infrastructure (PKI): The architecture, organization, techniques, practices, and procedures that collectively support the implementation and operation of a certificate-based public key cryptographic system.
Certification Authority: An authority such as GlobalSign that issues, suspends, or revokes a digital certificate.
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI): The interchange of data message structured under a certain format between business applications.