By John S. McClenahen Even as there's some uncertainty over the future of a pending U.S.-European Union (EU) pact on privacy rules, corporate executives are confused about the larger role of e-commerce in their businesses. For example, in only 1% of companies actively pursuing e-commerce do executives view it as a "critical success factor" today and only 5% believe it will be critical in the next three years, reports Chicago-based A.T. Kearney Inc., the management consulting subsidiary of Electronic Data Systems Corp. Yet 72% of the executives responding to Kearney's questions claim their companies are moderately to extremely active in pursuing e-business and 57% say the Internet has changed the ways their companies conduct business. Kearney's survey covered 251 CEOs in 26 countries. Worth noting: A higher percentage of European executives predict e-business will have a significant impact on future products than those elsewhere in the world. Fully 79% of European executives foresee a major impact, compared with 71% in Central and South America, 67% in Asia, and just 59% in North America.