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Service guards customer data

IBM is launchs a new consulting service to help companies develop internal policies regarding how they gather information on their consumers.

Big Blue is jumping into the direct marketing game, as a consultant not a marketer.

IBM is launching today a new consulting service to help companies develop, implement, and enforce internal policies regarding how they gather information on their consumers and what to do with the information once its gathered.

"Two things are causing this to happen now," explained Neal Isford, vice president of e-business services at IBM's global services unit. "One is we are finding e-commerce, that is customers buying and selling services over the Internet, is exploding. And those companies that are most successful are increasingly using personal information about their consumers to make their businesses more successful."

The other issue is that the European Union passed legislation that goes into effect October 24 requiring any company doing business with consumers in its member states most be able to prove they are handling consumer information according to EU law.

"There's a long history in the European community regarding the way personal information is handled, especially in the 1940s. So there is a large human rights issue that caused the legislation there," said Cal Slemp, who heads up IBM's security division within global services. "The legislation deals with the transmission and handling of personal information. The EU directive says if you do not prove you are handling the information in a responsible way [which is defined in the law] then the EU will not allow personal information to be moved in or out of its member states."

So, in steps IBM with its new consulting service to help businesses set up policies and procedures for complying with European law and easing U.S. consumer's fears about putting personal information on the Internet.

IBM is calling on the Privacy Consulting Group for help with the service. The group is a research and consultancy organization that specializes in privacy issues.

The service is initially being offered for U.S. companies and is to be part of IBM's larger e-commerce security services.