With spam, viruses and false identities clogging the Internet, going online can be a scary and dangerous proposition.

Faculty and doctoral candidates from the University of Michigan and Wayne State University are working together to alleviate some of the safety concerns surrounding Internet use through a joint program, the Socio-Technical Infrastructure for Electronic Transactions. The program is working to create technology to battle the evils of the online world but also to build a community that works together to overcome the issues created by the Internet.

“It’s working to make the Internet more safe and profitable for everyone,” said School of Information Prof. Jeff MacKie-Mason, the program’s director.

Part of the problem is that many Internet transactions rely on trust. Internet users must trust that Wikipedia’s user-submitted articles are factual, eBay sellers are honest and e-mail is safe.

Through its new research, the program aims to increase the security of these services.

School of Information spokesman Frank DeSanto said the main goal of the program is to find a way to make sure people online are who they claim to be.

The program is also developing ways to make financial rating systems more secure so sellers on sites like eBay and Amazon can’t artificially improve their history. Those sites ask buyers to rate sellers after each transaction. The sites then post those ratings as a guide for future customers.

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