Online trust is a pretty serious issue, but it’s not alway easy to quantify. We all understand that it is important, but what exactly is the value in pounds, shillings and pence (or whatever we will be using after Brexit) and how can we use that value to develop some business cases? It’s one thing to say (as you will often hear at conferences) that some technology or other can increase trust, but how do we know whether that means it is worth spending the money on it? At Consult Hyperion we have a very well-developed methodology, known as Structured Risk Analysis (SRA), for managing risk and directing countermeasure expenditures, but we need reasonable, informed estimates to make it work.
The specific case of online reviews might be one area where trust technologies can be assessed in a practical way. In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) estimates that a staggering £23bn a year of UK consumer spending is now influenced by online customer reviews and the consumer organisation Which has begun a campaign to stop fake reviews from misdirecting this spending. According to their press office, with “https://press.which.co.uk/whichpressreleases/revealed-amazon-plagued-with-thousands-of-fake-five-star-reviews/“, fake reviews are a very serious problem.
Unscrupulous businesses undoubtedly find fake reviews an incredibly useful tool. There are millions of examples we could use to illustrate this, but here is just one.”Asad Malik, 38, used fake reviews and photographs of secure car parks hundreds of miles away to trick customers into leaving their vehicles with him when they flew from Gatwick [Airport parking boss jailed for dumping cars in muddy fields].
So how can we use technology to make a difference here? When you read a review of an airport parking service, or a restaurant or a Bluetooth speaker, how can you even be sure (to choose the simplest example) that the reviewer purchased the product? Well, one possibility might be to co-opt the payment system: and this can be done in a privacy-enhancing way. Suppose when you pay the bill at a restaurant, and you have told your credit card provider that you are happy to be a reviewer, your credit card company sends you an unforgeable cryptographic token that proves you ate at the restaurant. Then, when you go to Tripadvisor or wherever, if you want to post a review of the restaurant, you have to provide such a token. The token would be cryptographically-blinded so that the restaurant and review-readers would not know who you are, so you could be honest, but they could be sure that you’ve eaten there.
Such “review tokens” are an obvious thing to store in digital wallets. You could easily imagine Calibra, to choose an obvious case study, storing these tokens and automatically presenting them when you log in to review sites. This would be a simple first step toward a reputation economy that would benefit consumers and honest service providers alike.
This is one of the cross-overs between payments and identity that we expect to be much discussed at Money20/20 in Las Vegas this week. I’ll be there with the rest of the Consult Hyperion team, so do come along to the great, great Digital Trust Track on Tuesday 29th and join in the discussions.