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IBM India Lab Masks Audio To Protect Customer’s Information

July 2008 by Frédéric Donnette, Global Security Mag EFYTIMES

Researchers at IBM’s India Research Laboratory have developed advanced data masking technology that detects and masks private and sensitive information collected from audio recordings of conversations between call centre agents and customers. Previously, there was no known technology which provided this functionality.

This development will help call centres protect critical data without disrupting customer service or business operations. The new data masking technology helps call centres and ITeS organisations by providing effective security and privacy of data which helps in managing customer trust and protecting the brand, which is critical for the call centre industry. Developed by IBM’s India Research Laboratory, the technology is a speech analytics tool that helps in complying with security and privacy legislation and compliance standards, which in turn enhances customer satisfaction.

"Call centres, and the agents who answer customer questions and address their concerns, play a vital role in reinforcing their organisation’s brand experience while maintaining customer trust. The ability to maintain customer trust requires organisations to be able to ensure the security of their customers’ private information, such as credit card numbers, personal identification numbers (PIN), social security numbers and other information collected through agent-customer interactions," said Dr Guruduth Banavar, director, IBM India Research Laboratory.

"Designed to transform data for better security and privacy, this technology, developed by IBM Research, helps to ensure effective measures to safeguard company brands and manage customer trust," added Banavar.

Typically, in a contact centre the audio recordings are stored and subsequently shared with various individuals for different purposes such as auditing, personnel training and quality management. During the process of sharing, audio files become vulnerable to unauthorised individuals getting access to sensitive information, which opens opportunities for personal and confidential information theft and other misuse. This unique technology from IBM’s India Research Laboratory processes these audio recordings in order to detect and mask the sensitive information and makes it accessible to authorised personnel only; thus preventing misuse of the data.

The new solution will help companies protect their data while taking advantage of the best resources available throughout the world. Voice and screen masking utilises a combination of speech analytics and metadata to locate portions of an audio or screen recordings that contain sensitive data such as a credit card or bank account numbers. The masking solution blocks that portion of the call or screen during playback for individuals that are not authorised to hear or view the sensitive information.

This novel technology helps in protecting audio files, particularly the agent customer interaction in a contact centre against misuse and theft. It helps enterprises to comply with various security and privacy legislations and comply with multiple industry standards. "Though the technology can be used in any setting, it is especially vital for contact centres and the ITeS industry where sensitive information is exchanged," said Dr Mukesh Mohania, who heads the Information Management research team at IBM’s India Research Laboratory.


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