Gene presents a system for anonymously performing electronic commerce. The system involves four phases, browsing, obtaining offers, payment, and delivery. Privacy is important in all phases. Identity information can be used, for example, in junk mailing lists or unfair pricing. It is important that transactions be unlinkable. In the first phase, pre-purchase browsing, the consumer collects signed offers of price and description, which may or may not be transferable. Gene presented two protocols, pre-purchase browsing (PPB) and electronic merchandise delivery (EMD). The PPB protocol supports anonymous browsing, but identity information is revealed during delivery. EMD supports anonymous merchandise delivery. They can be combined to form a completely anonymous system. The protocols provide signatures to the participants which enable them to prove in court what transpired. Gene referred to this as a cop out.
Eric Hughes asked why Gene considered the court system a cop out. Gene clarified that he simply means that actual court involvement would be very costly, but that, as in paper transactions, the backing of the court system is necessary. Andy Rabagliati mentioned that the wide prevalence of transatlantic caching would help support privacy, and Gene agreed that it would help support browsing. In response to a question, Gene indicated that merchants would want to support this to provide for their customers, and that it might have applications in situations of political oppression as well as the obvious application in pornography. Bob Gezelter mentioned that upcoming copyright legislation might interfere with some of this protocol.