CRM, the Pentagon, and You

  |  February 18, 2003   |  Comments

Total Information Awareness: Can the Pentagon launch the biggest CRM deployment in history?

Congress struck a blow at the Pentagon last week. The House and Senate aligned to severely restrict a Pentagon program known as Total Information Awareness (TIA).

TIA was developed to monitor personal health, financial, and travel information collected from commercial databases and email carried over the Internet. TIA ties together disparate information so it can be analyzed to help determine if any single individual is about to break the law. The program was accelerated in the face of terrorist threats. Its stated intention is to prevent further terrorist attacks against the United States.

TIA is interesting in part because it sounds like a CRM software product. Personal data is collected from multiple databases. Over time, the data is analyzed to determine patterns, which are used to predict future behavior. The business (or the Pentagon) reacts appropriately based on anticipated future behavior. The big difference, of course, is instead of generating incremental revenues from widgets, TIA prevents evildoers from practicing their trade.

A Wall Street Journal column last April detailed how Siebel, a major CRM software manufacturer, pitched government prospects on the value of its product to fight terrorism. The Journal wrote, "With Siebel software, it seems, exposing even the stealthiest terrorist plot is scarcely more difficult than ordering a book from Amazon. And not only is the software effective, it would be easy to install; Siebel promises that such a system could be up and running at the FBI in 18 months, tops." It continued, "Some industry professionals who viewed the Siebel presentation... were appalled at what they considered its grossly exaggerated promises."

Anyone introduced to CRM through a sales presentation typically comes out believing CRM is the cure for all that ails you. I find it just a tad disconcerting government officials may pin their hopes of halting terrorism on a CRM PowerPoint show. I hope they realize such presentations include bold statements from an industry that's earned a reputation for over-promising and under-delivering. I have no knowledge if Siebel's platform is in any way connected to the TIA initiative. That said, the Siebel presentation circulated through Washington last year. The TIA initiative sounds similar enough to think at the very least, Siebel struck a chord in someone in the Pentagon.

The sheer scope of TIA is daunting. There have been reports information collected would not only include traditional data, such as credit card records and phone logs, but also video surveillance from places such as airports. Implementation would be exponentially more difficult and time consuming than even the most detailed CRM initiative to date.

Knowing TIA would be funded out of taxpayers' pockets, I think about how many $400 ashtrays I've paid for in the past. Those, and the number of corporations suffering significant delays and cost overruns implementing CRM systems that pale in comparison to TIA's scope. In the end, I could justify the program's existence, no matter how long it might take to be operational or how much it may cost. The potential upside of identifying terrorist activities and preventing loss of human life is too great.

Remember, though, Congress severely restricted TIA's use. The issue wasn't cost or time to implementation. Congress was worried about personal privacy. The amendment passed prohibits the Pentagon from using TIA to examine American citizens' personal data. Victory over Big Brother. Privacy hawks were out in force. Sen. Ron Wyden was quoted as saying, "It looks like Congress is getting the message from the American people loud and clear and that is: Stop the trifling with the civil liberties of law-abiding Americans."

Perhaps the Pentagon should try DoubleClick's approach. Separate personally identifiable from non-personally identifiable information, à la Abacus Direct. The Pentagon could go hog-wild analyzing non-personally identifiable information for patterns indicating deviant behavior. When a pattern is uncovered and a terrorist plot identified, it could request it be allowed to tie its data to personally identifiable information to make an arrest. Personally identifiable information would be protected. Access would be permitted only by court order. OK, so maybe it's a bad idea.

Since reading about the congressional amendment, I've debated TIA. I'm a law-abiding American citizen, have concerns about protecting my personal privacy, and am skeptical of how the government may ultimately use information it collects about me. At the same time, I'm a law-abiding American citizen, have nothing to hide, and want to see government take whatever action necessary to prevent another tragedy such as September 11.

I haven't reached a decision as to whether I agree with the amendment. I may be willing to give up my right to personal privacy in the hope it might protect a broader group of people.

We certainly live in interesting times.

ClickZ Live Toronto Twitter Canada MD Kirstine Stewart to Keynote Toronto
ClickZ Live Toronto (May 14-16) is a new event addressing the rapidly changing landscape that digital marketers face. The agenda focuses on customer engagement and attaining maximum ROI through online marketing efforts across paid, owned & earned media. Register now and save!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Sakalosky Mark Sakalosky is an associate at Howe Strategic, a business consulting firm working with early stage companies in technology sectors. Mark has more than nine years of marketing strategy, business development and product development experience in both online and offline environments. He has delivered successful results for companies ranging from Fortune 500 firms to start-ups operating in the retail, telecommunications, media and technology industries. Although he earned an MBA in marketing strategy from The College of William & Mary, he remains a devoted Spider from his undergrad days at the University of Richmond.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Analytics newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

ion Interactive Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper

Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper
Marketing apps can elevate a formulaic landing page into a highly interactive user experience. Learn how to turn your static content into exciting marketing apps.

eMarketer: Redefining Mobile-Only Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop

Redefining 'Mobile-Only' Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop
A new breed of selective mobile-only consumers has emerged. What are the demos of these users and how and where can marketers reach them?

Jobs

    • Contact Center Professional
      Contact Center Professional (TCC: The Contact Center) - Hunt ValleyLooking to join a workforce that prides themselves on being routine and keeping...
    • Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador
      Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreAgora, www.agora-inc.com, continues to expand! In order to meet the needs of our...
    • Design and Publishing Specialist
      Design and Publishing Specialist (Bonner and Partners) - BaltimoreIf you’re a hungry self-starter, creative, organized and have an extreme...