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AOL promises security for shoppers

America Online says it will make it safer for members to shop online.

America Online is telling its 5.5 million users that they will be able to shop online with more peace of mind starting this summer.

The online service announced today a series of security and electronic commerce relationships with CyberCash, IBM infoMarket, RSA Data Security, Terisa Systems, and VeriSign to employ the companies' technologies across the AOL service and its Internet access service GNN.

The company has not ironed out all the details of implementing the technologies--some of which duplicate each other's capabilities--but the new layers of security will not affect the cost of services, according to AOL spokewoman Pam McGraw. "It's a fair point to say that there are overlaps," she said. "We're looking to partner with the best technology and best companies out there, then we'll look closely at the technology and find the best fit within AOL and GNN."

The company's plans include:
--the June release of version 3.0 of its Web browser for Windows with built-in encryption, although the company wouldn't provide specific packaging and feature details. AOL will release its Macintosh 3.0 Web browser later this year to catch up with the Windows version. --use of IBM infoMarket's Cryptolopes technology, which allows publishers to distribute and sell content within sealed electronic envelopes that open when the user transmits payment.
--support for Terisa Systems' Secure Electronic Transaction, an online credit card payment standard endorsed by MasterCard and Visa
--implementation of VeriSign's Digital ID authentication technology based on public key encrpytion

By the fall, the company expects to integrate CyberCash's "electronic wallet" payment services with its GNN services.

The company has still to decide on one area of online security: filtering software for helping parents block access to inappropriate material for their children. An agreement signed last summer to implement the SurfWatch software has recently fallen through. AOL members can currently use the service's proprietary controls to block specific AOL chat rooms, forums, and newsgroups but have no way to block Web content. The company hopes to secure a deal with another vendor to provide Web blocking software this summer.

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