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IBM buys into spookware

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IBM will soon be keeping a close eye on you thanks to its purchase of SRD (Systems Research and Development).

SRD, a small privately-held company based in Las Vegas, is best known for its ERIK and NORA identity management products. This spooky software collects data about an individual from various sources and is billed as a "customer relationship management" tool. SRD has been in business for 20 years and will now be part of IBM's Information Management software unit. No financial details about IBM's buy of SRD were revealed.

NORA ( Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness) is without doubt the most compelling product in SRD's arsenal. It's described by IBM as a great product for figuring out all you ever wanted to know about a customer.

"It's important to know who you're dealing with-and who they're dealing with," IBM says on its website. "Repeatedly, NORA has proven that a map of an individual's relationships provides a more complete view of their risk or value to your organization - whether they're a customer, prospect, or employee."

Ah, but how far does this map go?

"When it comes to customer relationship management, there's much to be gained in knowing that the person opening a new bank account is the brother of your best customer. If, on the other hand, security is the value proposition, then your ability to detect suspicious connections between individuals internal and external to your organization significantly decreases the threats of fraud, collusion, conflicts of interest, or even of the potential for corporate sabotage or terrorism."

NORA can search through databases of addresses, social security numbers, phone records and individual's contacts. It has been used, for example, by the gaming industry to track down cheats and note who the cheats talk to at casinos.

Real heart-warming stuff.

It's lovely to think that a piece of software can tell you when a huge customer's CEO has a birthday and then automatically send him a present based on his most recent purchases at Amazon.com. SRD's products, however, are less flattering when you think that they could lead to uncomfortable guilt by association scenarios. The Feds have proven that they have trouble dealing with digital evidence, and one wonders if IBM or its customers will be any better at the task. ®

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