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Patents Communications IBM Privacy

IBM Uses Call-Detail Records To Identify "Friends" 116

theodp writes "Big Blue may know what you did last summer. Or at least who you called. In a move out of the NSA's playbook, IBM Research has been scrutinizing the call-detail records of 'one of the largest mobile operators in the world' (PDF). By analyzing who calls whom, and for how long, IBM claims its patent-pending snooping software can now identify circles of 'friends' who tend to exhibit the same profit-threatening behavior. 'We believe that our analysis is a first of its kind that exploits the underlying social network in a telecom call graph,' boasted a team of IBM researchers and a UMD prof. For now, IBM seems to have focused on using the info to see if your friends are churners, so you can be dealt with pro-actively lest you follow their lead and bolt. However, IBM suggests its SNAzzy data mining technology (Social Network Analysis for Telecom Business Intelligence) has a bright future, noting it 'is also capable of analyzing any kind of social network or graph, not just telecom networks.'"
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IBM Uses Call-Detail Records To Identify "Friends"

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  • by Foobar of Borg ( 690622 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @04:44PM (#28911639)
    I mean, what can you expect from a company that was perfectly willing to profit from the Holocaust? []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 01, 2009 @04:45PM (#28911647)

    "UMD prof"

    If this was an academic study, then the raw data was (or should have been) typified (anonymized). Therefore it would not be useful for identifying real world "friends" responsible for "profit-threatening behavior". Rather, it would be a group analysis tool.

    Not to say I'd give my informed consent to any of this analysis, but clarity on how the raw was handled.

  • by weeboo0104 ( 644849 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @05:23PM (#28911871) Journal

    As a former IBM employee, I am disappointed to see the company that gave us some of the best typewriters in the world, the mainframe and the Personal Computer, producing this sort of drek after slashing jobs in the US.

    I guess it was a matter of time before "IBM India Research Lab" produced something like this. They certainly haven't been producing any real business machines or providing decent customer service to IBM Global Services customers.

    Look for more of the same from IBM. IBMs CEO Sam Palmisano has said repeatedly in the past year that IBM will be focusing more on "analytics".

  • by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @05:55PM (#28912091) Homepage Journal
    There have been some really important results from social network analysis.

    The Collective Dynamics of Smoking in a Large Social Network []

    The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years []

    However, in these studies, all the subjects had joined the study and given permission in writing for the researchers to use their personal data.

    It would clear a lot of things up if we could see the documents that the UMD professor submitted to the university's human subjects review board, and the documents they sent him in reply.

  • Re:snail mail (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @06:01PM (#28912145) Homepage Journal

    Unless all mailboxes come with mandatory cameras these days.

    U.S. post offices have security cameras these days. You can't mail anything that weighs >15 ounces without getting photographed, whether you know it or not.

    A woman who worked for the Republican Party had an attack of conscience and mailed some documents to the Democrats, in an Express Mail envelope. She was prosecuted for theft, and part of the evidence was the Post Office security cameras. (Although I can't understand why she used Express Mail, where you have to fill out a return address and get a receipt.)

  • Re:How can we churn? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by St.Creed ( 853824 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @06:02PM (#28912163)

    Churning seems to mean (in general) "to agitate, to upset, to replace old with new". As far as I know the word "churn" has been used as a synonym for "turnover" in several areas, including banking, e-commerce and telecom.

  • Re:Uh-oh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Saturday August 01, 2009 @11:40PM (#28913895) Homepage

    Instead and looking at your preferences it analysis social interactions and establishes a method by which they can mimic those social interactions in order to what, manipulate your choices and future social interactions.

    What is interesting is specially they are seeking to monitor non-customers ie. using customers as judas goats to analyse the behaviour of the people they contact. Reminds me of the whole g-mail thing, whose email is it, the person who sends it (a gmail customer), the person who receives it (a non-gmail customer who now has no choice as to whether some of their email is analysed) or the corporations that temporarily handles it.

    It's like more and more companies are looking at the privacy invasiveness of facebook, google, M$ and seeking to spread it into every facet of human life, to what convert humanity into droid buy bots, the 21st century equivalent of consumers. Looks like we are going to need tools like this [] not only to obscure searches but also to obscure email and even voip phone calls. So in the future 80% of your communications will not be genuine but random obscuring coms designed to regain your privacy by burying under a ton of obscuring, pointless and wasteful coms. It seems much simpler, simpler and more energy efficient to legislate back in privacy and respect for the individual, let's get some 'mind your own fucking business' back into the market.

  • by mstrcat ( 517519 ) on Sunday August 02, 2009 @12:47AM (#28914135)
    I'd be interested to know what telecom gave the researchers the data. If I'd been a customer of that company, I sure wouldn't any longer. I think I'll switch cell phone companies and phone numbers, just to become part of the churners.

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?