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IBM unveils intelligent agent

IBM releases a software agent called Web Browser Intelligence that makes it easier for users to obtain, distribute, and control information on the Web.

    IBM (IBM) has released a software agent called Web Browser Intelligence that makes it easier for users to obtain, distribute, and control information on the Web.

    Acting as an intermediary between Web browsers and Web servers, WBI remembers usage patterns, alerts users to changes, and can track orders or purchasing patterns. A personal version is available for free download, and IBM will license the technology to other vendors.

    IBM's agent can help recall a Web site previously visited, search previously viewed sites by keywords, provide alerts on download times, advise users on changes at a Web site, learn user patterns, and suggest shortcuts.

    But one observer has raised privacy questions about IBM's technology.

    "The behavior-tracking capabilities of these types of agents present potential privacy issues that user companies will have to examine closely when buying applications," according to a daily commentary from market research firm Zona Research, which predicted that such agents will one day become widespread.

    IBM is ducking the privacy issue, Zona said, by delegating it to customers that license its technology.

    WBI has been downloaded more than 70,000 times from IBM's alphaWorks Web site, where IBM posts early-stage technologies to see if they excite commercial interest.

    IBM is offering the agent intermediary technology through its WBI Development Toolkit, which supports the C programming language, C++, and Java.