Will security enhance trust online, or supplant it?

Helen Nissenbaum

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Promoters of the Internet and other digital media cite many and diverse benefits of these advances to humanity, from wide-ranging access to information and communication to enhancement of community and politics to stimulation of commerce and scientific collaboration. As the digital infrastructure has grown in size and complexity, however, even the most enthusiastic proponents acknowledge that the benefits are not inevitable but rest on a number of contingencies. Key among them is trust. Just as in conventional settings where trust improves the lives, prospects, and prosperity of individuals, relationships, and communities, so would it online, and just as distrust can degrade many dimensions of life, so can it online.1 Because of its importance to a flourishing online world and because trust online poses distinctive challenges, it has attracted the attention of a number of scholars, researchers, and practitioners in technical as well as nontechnical fields, which has yielded an extensive literature in scholarly and trade publications, the popular media, and government reports, and an active showing at conferences.2 Much of this work on trust online is devoted either to empirical investigation of key variables relevant to trust online or to developing technical models, mechanisms, and designs for encouraging and supporting trust online. While acknowledging the practical contributions of both these lines of work, this paper questions the conceptual assumptions behind them, arguing that the successful end-point of these efforts will not be trust at all but something else, something closer to surety, or the certainty that one is secure, particularly through technically imposed constraints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTrust and Distrust in Organizations
Subtitle of host publicationDilemmas and Approaches
PublisherRussell Sage Foundation
Number of pages34
ISBN (Print)0871544857, 9780871544858
StatePublished - 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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