IBM launches worldwide privacy effort

The global privacy and data protection initiatives launched Monday by IBM Corp. reflect growing security challenges faced by its enterprise customers, according to company officials.

The formation of the IBM Privacy Institute and the Privacy Management Council represent the industry’s first formal technology research effort with a focus on developing privacy-enabling and data protection technologies for businesses, IBM said.

IBM’s customers are clearly engaged in a “privacy versus security” debate and it remains to be seen if this translates into more openness within enterprises, said Debera Tomalty, chief privacy officer at IBM Canada in Markham, Ont.

Tomalty added that the Institute’s core focus is on developing software that allows enterprise customers to manage personal data according to their privacy policies and customers’ preferences.

“We’re pulling together customers representing fairly large enterprises,” Tomalty said. ” Companies that have a wealth of personal data that they have to handle. We’ve got insurance sectors, health sectors, financial sectors . . . they will help us develop products that will deliver solutions that will help them handle all those concerns.”

The Privacy Institute, under the direction of institute executive Dr. Michael Waidner, will conduct research in IBM’s eight research laboratories around the world, Tomalty said. She added the Institute will also sponsor a series of workshops and other outreach efforts to the business, academic and research communities.

The Institute will concentrate on privacy-specific technologies in the areas of e-commerce, pervasive and mobile computing, knowledge management, and intrusion detection. An international external advisory board of technology, government and policy experts (including Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner Dr. Ann Cavoukian) will provide input and guidance on the initiatives.

Cavoukian was unavailable for comment Monday.

The IBM Privacy Council, chaired by IBM chief privacy officer Harriet P. Pearson, is designed to address emerging privacy needs and “define” next-generation Tivoli privacy management software, IBM officials said.

IBM security and sales representative Doug MacPherson said the beta release of the software should be ready by March 2002 and noted the Council has been instrumental in identifying the key privacy technology requirements.

Council members represent both public and private institutions and include Deloitte & Touche, Fidelity Investments, Marriott International, and Burnaby, B.C.-based Telus Corp. Tomalty noted that member participation does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of an IBM product.

“(Members) are not just going and buying a product off the shelf – they’re helping us design something that is customized to their needs,” Tomalty said.

IBM in Markham, Ont. is at