New Tivoli tool will help companies maintain privacy

A new free tool by IBM's Austin-based Tivoli Software will help companies maintain the privacy of their customers, the company said today.

The Privacy Wizard, freeware that can be downloaded from Tivoli's Web site, allows companies to express their privacy policies in XML so that employees stand a better chance of complying with them, said Arvind Krishna, Tivoli's vice president.

The software creates boxes in which private customer information is entered. Only customer information allowed to be gathered under the privacy policy can be stored in the company's records.

Jason Catlett, president of Green Brook, N. J.-based Junkbusters Corp. said the software will help prevent employee mistakes, which are a big source of privacy violations.

He said most companies have low standards for maintaining customer privacy, but the Privacy Wizard and tools provided by Richardson, Texas-based Privacy Council Inc. and other vendors will help prevent accidental violations.

But the software is only as good as the company using it, said Catlett. That view was echoed by Ari Schwartz at Washington-based Center for Democracy and Technology.

"It's a great step forward to be able to use these kinds of technologies," Schwartz said. "But it is not solving the whole problem. Anyone who says it is a full solution is really deluding themselves."

Krishna said the Privacy Wizard is the first half of the Tivoli offering. Sometime in early fall, Tivoli expects to roll out the second half of the product, which won't be free but will allow users more options. The additional product will allow the tool to provide context to private information.

For instance, the current tool will only show an employee information that is allowed to be seen, such as a customer's address or telephone number. The second half of the tool will be able to make specific decisions, such as when the data can be seen. For instance, a customer may have given permission only for her address to be seen when a product is being mailed to her house. If a sales representative calls up that customer's information during a sales call, the address wouldn't be visible to the rep.

Krishna said anyone can download the software, and he hopes that companies using it will share their thoughts with Tivoli.

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