Emerging roles for third parties in cyberspace

Ethics and Information Technology 3 (4):267-276 (2001)
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In `real' space, third partieshave always been useful to facilitatetransactions. With cyberspace opening up, it isto be expected that intermediation will alsodevelop in a virtual fashion. The articlefocuses upon new cyberroles for third partiesthat seem to announce themselves clearly.First, virtualization of the market place haspaved the way for `cybermediaries', who brokerbetween supply and demand of material andinformational goods. Secondly,cybercommunication has created newuncertainties concerning informational securityand privacy. Also, as in real space,transacting supposes some decency with one'spartners. These needs are being addressed byTrusted Third Parties, anonymizers, escrowarrangements, facilitators and externalauditing. Virtual reputation trackingmechanisms are being developed as well.Finally, in order to resolve disputes,mediators and arbitrators have started offeringtheir services online. In the closing sectionthese emerging cyberroles are assessedcritically. It is argued in particular, thatboth cybermediaries and cyberjustice poseserious threats to privacy. Moreover, onlinedispute resolution, as it is practised now,neglects its duties of public accounting.



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Paul B. De Laat
University of Groningen

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