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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

Value conflicts and social choice in electronic funds transfer system developments

During the last few years, computer-based systems which automate the transfer and recording of debits and credits have begun to be implemented on a large scale. These systems promise both financial benefits for the institutions that use them and potential conveniences to their customers. However, they also raise significant social, legal, and technical questions that must be resolved if full scale systems for Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) are not to cause more problems for the larger public than they solve. This paper examines the incentives for EFT developments and the social problems they raise in the context of conflicts between five different value positions that are often implicit in analyses of proposed EFT arrangements. These conflicts reflect the relative importance of certain problems for specific groups. The value positions implicit in EFT proposals help to organize analyses of market arrangements, system reliability, and privacy of transactions. These topics are analyzed in this article and related to the value positions held by concerned parties. Last, the ways in which the public can learn about the social qualities of different EFT arrangements and the pace of EFT developments are both discussed in the context of social choice.

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