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Mistaken Identity Resolution

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

It is usually nice to be mistaken for someone famous. It is especially nice if they are talented, athletic, or attractive.

You might resemble a rock legend and use that talent to bring joy to Parkinson’s Disease patients. Or you might be a look-alike for a superstar quarterback. Or maybe people mistake you for another quarterback’s top fan.

Then again, you could be employed as Saddam Hussein’s look-alike.

Or “you” might be a product that resembles another “product” (er, illegal substance).

Or you could be the computer programmer saddled by an unfortunate name in Mike Judge’s cult-classic movie “Office Space”:

Michael Bolton: There was nothing wrong with it… until I was about 12 years old and that no-talent a** clown became famous and started winning Grammys.
Samir: Hmm… well why don’t you just go by Mike instead of Michael?
Michael Bolton: No way. Why should I change? He’s the one who s*cks.

That occasionally happens to identity resolution (AKA entity resolution and analytics) technologies, such as our Identity Resolution Engine(tm) and IBM’s Entity Analytic Solutions.

Sometimes identity resolution is hard for folks to correctly categorize. That’s because it resembles a number of other technologies. So when you explain it to the uninitiated, if you see their light bulb begin to glow, it’s likely the wrong light bulb.

They interrupt to say, “Oh, so it’s the same thing as _______,” where the blank is filled with one or more of the following:

But it’s not the same thing.

That is a natural reaction. When faced with something new, we like to align it with an existing concept, file it in a familiar folder, or check a pre-positioned box on our mental grid. And it’s always nice to have it already covered by other technologies that we are currently deploying or that are in our roadmap.

But in the case of identity resolution, that would be a mistake. Identity resolution differs significantly from most of those other technologies.

The good news is that identity resolution is also very complementary to existing solutions and can resolve unique problems left unresolved by its cousins. And it typically doesn’t bring the same discomfort to an organization, its infrastructure, and its pocketbook that they do.

So what is identity resolution? How does it compare to those other technologies? What unique value does it bring to the table? Well, that’s a big topic that we’ll be posting on repeatedly in coming months.

In the meantime, please let us know your impressions of identity resolution’s relatives by clicking the “Comments” link below and leaving a reply.

  • Does your enterprise use them?
  • How long did they take to deploy?
  • Have they met your expectations?
  • What pains were you trying to address?
  • What pains remain?

Or just tell us who people commonly mistake you for. We always like to hear from our readers.

Identity Resolution Daily Links 2008-1-28

Monday, January 28th, 2008

[Note: We’ve often addressed the issue of creating a balance between security and privacy. In honor of Data Privacy Day 2008 today’s links focus on data privacy.]

CQ.com: Collateral Damage: Surveillance Aimed at Terrorists Can Easily Go Awry

“’We don’t talk about who we are investigating and not investigating,’ FBI spokesman Richard Kolko told me Friday. But U.S. intelligence officials insist they are not idly ’spying’ on innocent Americans. And I tend to agree. What would be the point? On the other hand, the incidents Wright describes, and the open-ended electronic surveillance authority the administration wants, are cause for worry — just not for the reasons many people think.”

IBM developerWorks: Reflections on Data Privacy Day

“‘People, process, and technology’ has almost become a mantra in the IT industry but as we explore the challenges in IT governance we see that there’s another big factor, ‘policy’. It’s nebulous term. People argue over what it is and isn’t. But for my purposes here, let’s say that a policy is a statement of intent and/or obligation expressed in natural language text. A policy is often a statement of principles that must be interpreted and applied to a wide range of contexts. They are guides to action. They set boundaries to actions. They set minimum standards of action. For Data Privacy Day, I think it’s fitting to look at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s five principles of Fair Information Practices and ask ourselves how well we are doing.”


PogoWasRight.org: Reminder: Monday is Data Privacy Day 2008 (update 2)

“As a reminder: January 28th is Data Privacy Day in North America and 27 European countries. Here are some resources or ideas for activities:”

Official Google Blog: Celebrating data privacy

“As part of the day’s events, we’ll join legal scholars, privacy professionals, and government officials from Europe and the U.S. at an international data privacy conference being held at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. We’ll also contribute to efforts to raise awareness and promote understanding of data privacy issues by releasing the third video in our privacy series (’Google Privacy: A Look at Cookies’) on our YouTube Privacy Channel.”

Identity Resolution Daily Links 2008-1-25

Friday, January 25th, 2008

[Post from Infoglide Software] The Big Issue at the Big Show

“I spoke recently with Doug Wood, our senior VP of sales who had just returned from the National Retail Federation’s Big Show at the Javits Center in New York. . . . He said that one of the things on people’s minds is the possibility of a recession and how it would impact retailers. . . . What that means for companies like ours that sell to retailers is that the decision makers are going to be even more focused on return on investment (ROI).”

Insurance Journal: 3-Day Dragnet in Fla. Nets 47 Insurance Fraud Arrests

“Officials arrested 47 Floridians so far in a statewide, three-day operation that began Tuesday and will continue through today, targeting 84 individuals for various insurance fraud charges, according to Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.”

OrlandoSentinel.com: Lake Mary couple arrested in retail theft ring

“A major retail theft ring headed by a Lake Mary couple is thought to have stolen up to $100 million in health and beauty products from retail and grocery stores over the last five years, Polk County detectives announced Thursday. . . . Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said detectives were ‘absolutely shocked’ when they learned of the magnitude of the multi-tier ring, which is though to have struck stores in Orange, Lake and Polk counties, as well as throughout Tampa Bay. ‘This is big-time organized crime,’ Judd said.”

PogoWasRight.org: Immigration database to mine 9 federal sources

“A massive new database program that culls information from more than nine federal sources will help law enforcement agents link possible terrorists or other suspected criminals with associates whose records are in the system, federal officials say.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Doctor gets probation for $650K insurance fraud

“Totada R. Shanthaveerappa, 73, who was suspended by the state medical licensing board after his indictment in 2005, treated terminally ill patients at his clinic in Stockbridge. He pleaded guilty in October to defrauding insurance companies out of $650,000 for submitting false and misleading claims. Shanthaveerappa paid the entire amount of fraud in restitution.”

The Big Issue at the Big Show

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

By Julie Garcia, Marketing and Public Relations

I spoke recently with Doug Wood, our senior VP of sales who had just returned from the National Retail Federation’s Big Show at the Javits Center in New York. Having spent 20 years in the retail industry, the Big Show is like homecoming for Doug so he ran into quite a few old colleagues and friends (or ‘mates’ as he likes to call them). He said that one of the things on people’s minds is the possibility of a recession and how it would impact retailers. Obviously, when money gets tight, discretionary spending goes down. You gotta pay the mortgage. You gotta put food on the table and gas in the car. But you don’t really need another pair of shoes. Well, I do, but that’s a separate post.

Retailing Today’s recap of the Big Show on their RTTV also listed the downturn in the economy as a key issue at the show. What that means for companies like ours that sell to retailers is that the decision makers are going to be even more focused on return on investment (ROI). Basically, when money is tight for the retailers, your product better make them more money or save them more money. There’s no room for ‘nice to haves.’

That may send a trickle of fear down the backs of some vendors, but we actually feel pretty good about it. Most retailers lose about 1.5% of their revenue to shrinkage, which is, interestingly enough, about half their profit margin. If a retailer could get rid of that shrinkage, they would basically increase their market value by 50%. That’s huge.

Now, you can’t eliminate shrinkage entirely, but you can reduce it dramatically. Just take a look at the graph below. The green bar shows what an existing Returns Authorization Solution declined. The blue bar shows the Identity Resolution Engine uplift and what should have been declined. That’s some pretty dramatic uplift if we do say so ourselves. In fact, recent efforts in the retail and insurance sectors have shown that our Identity Resolution Engine™ (IRE) provides a 20-40% lift over and above the results companies can get with other commercial providers.

So, while I would never say ‘bring it on’ about a recession, we feel pretty sure that no matter what happens with the economy, there is still a very compelling argument for retailers to use IRE to improve their loss prevention efforts.

Identity Resolution Engine’s Improvement Over Retailer’s Returns Authorization Solution

Identity Resolution Daily Links 2008-1-21

Monday, January 21st, 2008

EyeforRetail: Loss Prevention Executive Interviews

Q: What do you think has been the most successful move against internal loss in retail in the last 5 years? A: Generally, the increased use of technology such as video, data mining and suchlike. In addition to this, retailers are beginning to make fundamental changes and are safeguarding their organisations more effectively. Of course, the answer can’t be found in data mining advances, staff recruitment, training or any other solution singularly; effective screening, instruction, control and detection are ALL key and will be the only way for retailers to win the internal loss battle.”

Insurance Journal: New York Says Insurance Fraud Arrests Are Up

“Beginning this year, the bureau has established a major case unit that will focus on the investigation of systemic insurance fraud involving organized conspiracies. The unit will be headed up by a deputy chief investigator and will include five investigators who were selected from the bureau’s specialized units. The new unit will take the lead in investigating complex insurance cases involving no-fault, commercial rate evasion, health care fraud and workers’ compensation premium fraud.”

The Creswell Chronicle: New laws going into effect Jan. 1

“SB 331 A: Creates a new crime of ‘organized retail theft’. To be guilty of organized retail theft, the state must establish that: (1) the person stole merchandise; (2) from a mercantile establishment; (3) the person acted in concert with another person; and (4) the aggregate value of the merchandise within a 90-day period exceeds $5,000. SB 331 A also places organized retail theft within Oregon’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act) statute.”

Identity Resolution Daily Links 2008-1-18

Friday, January 18th, 2008

Rocky Mountain News: ‘E-fencing’ bill to target organized retail crime

“Baby formula, gift cards and cold medicine could not be sold at online auction Web sites in Colorado under a proposal that will be introduced in the legislature today that’s intended to crack down on Internet fencing rings. . . . Retailers say ‘e-fencing‘ laws are needed to combat organized retail crime, which racks up an estimated $522 million a year in losses in Colorado alone and $37 billion nationwide. Internet sites such as eBay, the world’s biggest online auction site, are particularly good outlets for thieves because they can sell the stolen items anonymously, said Chris Howes, president of the Colorado Retail Council. . . . Congress last year held hearings on eBay’s role in monitoring itself for stolen goods. The Coalition Against Organized Retail Crime, whose members include Wal-Mart, Target and Macy’s, has been lobbying for legislation to require online auction sites to disclose more information on ‘high-volume’ sellers and post serial numbers for products.”

newsday.com: 61 People Arrested In NYC Stolen Car Insurance Fraud Sting

“Sixty-one people, including a New York City police officer, were charged Thursday in a $1.7 million insurance fraud sting. New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said those charged paid a middleman to dispose of their vehicles and falsely reported them stolen to collect large insurance settlements.”

PogoWasRight.org: One year later: Five takeaways from the TJX breach

“One year ago today, The TJX Companies Inc. disclosed what has turned out to be the largest information security breach involving credit and debit card data — thus far, at least. . . . Here, on the one-year anniversary of the breach becoming known, are five takeways for security managers.”

PRWeb: Employees Trump Organized Crime as Source of Retail Shrink, Study Finds

“It’s incredibly hard to create a customer-centric store when your core belief is that your employees, who are your company’s face to the world, will steal from you at the first opportunity. Nonetheless, according to a new RSR Benchmark report, sponsored by Micros Retail and Sensormatic, “Winning Trends in Loss Prevention: Benchmark study 2008″, this is the pervasive retailing condition. . . . ‘New Loss Prevention initiatives have to be cost-effective in both human and financial terms’, said Paula Rosenblum, Managing Director and author of the report. ‘Retailers are looking to add business intelligence to existing technologies and provide exception-based reports from video and text-based data to the responsible party. They believe new LP initiatives can reduce their shrink by 10-25%.’”

Has Retail Fraud Moved Online?

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

By Johnny Norris, Director UK Markets

[Note: Today’s post is from our offices ‘across the pond’ in the UK.]

News this week from ComputerworldUK tells us that large merchants have seen an increase of over 10% over twelve months in fraud through their online businesses. Notably, a considerable piece of this issue has to do with the use of multiple identities (33% of large retailers saw this) and the difficult problem of internal theft.

One of the issues facing multi-channel or Internet retailers is that online fraud is often quite different from store based problems. It’s seen by perpetrators as anonymous, and it is considerably easier to appear to hide identity. Combine this with the ability to ‘pass on’ goods via online auction sites and retailers are facing attack from external and internal sources (often combined). According to the CyberSource research, many retailers are willing to invest in technology to tackle the issue, but most solutions are based on exception and don’t always tackle the huge identity issue.

But, there is good news! Traditionally, store based retailers in the UK have not collected much in the way of customer or returns data (certainly as compared to US retailers), but the online/multi-channel boom is changing that. Retailers now face the issue of what information to store and how to deal with the deluge of it. Fraud analysts haven’t increased in number, so retailers must find a way to harvest ALL their information sources (whether it be employee or customer data) and provide their fraud/security teams with prioritized, high quality information on those using multiple identities, or even working in an organized way. Organized Retail Crime (ORC) wasn’t mentioned in the article, but this is a key area and often the way it can be detected is to identify links or relationships between customers or customers and employees.

Identity resolution technology (AKA entity resolution and analysis technology) that can identify the use of multiple identities and detect fraudulent relationships (or ORC) is now in existence, but not many companies offer the full range of elements. Importantly, this technology can be used to look at the problem of e-fencing via online auction sites as well. Looking for the subtle matches between stock that has gone missing and, say, an online vendor with details a lot like an employee may be a critical step in stemming this fast growing fraud problem.

Can retailers accept a 10% year on year rise in fraud? We think they shouldn’t have to.

Identity Resolution Daily Links 2008-1-14

Monday, January 14th, 2008

Fox Business: High Shrink Takes a Toll on the Bottomline of Retail Enterprises

Aberdeen, a Harte-Hanks Company (NYSE: HHS: 13.90, +0.17, +1.23%), surveyed 680 retail enterprises in October 2007 and found that on an average, 60% of retailers surveyed recorded year-over-year shrink or write-off of at least 1.75% of their total inventory (as a percent of sales), further compounding existing theft and fraud-related complexities in retail. Another alarming trend is that almost a third of retailers (30%) have reported between 2% to 6% invalid transactions (unauthorized and fraudulent customer transactions as a percentage of total transactions). This indicates that retailers may be faced with high transaction fraud incidence due to organized retail crime, data loss, and dishonest employees. . . . Cash asset protection, real-time video and transaction data intelligence, and access control are some of the pillars that enable retailers across different sub-segments to build an agile and responsive loss prevention environment.”

Yahoo! News: New ID rules may complicate air travel

“Millions of air travelers may find going through airport security much more complicated this spring, as the Bush administration heads toward a showdown with state governments over post-Sept. 11 rules for new driver’s licenses. By May, the dispute could leave millions of people unable to use their licenses to board planes, but privacy advocates called that a hollow threat by federal officials.”

PogoWasRight.org: De: Citizen’s rights activists intend to prevent EU plans to record passengers’ flight details

“German Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung (Work Group on Data Retention) has announced a constitutional appeal if the German government agrees to back plans by the EU Commission to retain Passenger Name Records for 13 years.”

WashingtonTechnology: Web extra: States face Real ID privacy dilemma

“‘If you centralize it, it would be easier to manage in terms of security and privacy,’ said Harold Kocken, business solution manager of BearingPoint’s national motor vehicle solutions group. ‘There would be fewer people with the possibility of interfering with the database.’ . . . The verification grant program will expand a pilot project run by the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems. Named the Electronic Verification of Vital Events, it is operating with three states that can originate queries and nine states that can respond to the queries. Using the system, operators type information for verification, such as someone’s full name and date of birth, and the system automatically processes the query to determine if there is a match with the original birth certificate. The response is either ‘match’ or ‘no match.’ It attaches notes about suspected misspellings and near matches.”

Identity Resolution Daily Links 2008-1-11

Friday, January 11th, 2008

[Post from Infoglide Software] When Technology Turns Tradition on its Head

“The rapid march of technology drives rapid change and, in some ways, the use of technology begins to undermine people’s habits that have endured for years and years.”

The State: Gift card scams rile industry

“But gift cards sold on Web sites can be fraudulent, said Evan Schuman, editor of New Jersey-based Storefrontbacktalk.com, a blog focusing on retail technology and e-commerce. ‘Retailers love them, consumers love them and the bad guys love them,’ he said of gift cards. Although no independent organization tracks gift-card fraud, various sources estimate that between 2 percent and 30 percent of all cards sold on secondary sites are tainted with illegal activity. Plastic Jungle, which allows shoppers to buy, sell and trade gift cards, decided to tackle security concerns head on, said CEO and founder Tina Henson.”

FCW.com: Bush administration ready to release revised Real ID regs

“The Bush administration will release Jan. 11 a revised set of minimum federal standards that states must meet when issuing driver’s licenses and identification cards as mandated by the Real ID Act of 2005, said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.”

azcentral.com: Shoppers face strict return policies

“Shoppers should expect some headaches when returning gifts after Christmas, according to consumer education Web site ConsumerWorld.org. ‘Stores’ return policy remains strict and complicated,’ said Edward Dworsky, founder of the resource guide.”

beye.com - Business Intelligence Network: Improving Business Intelligence: The Six Sigma Way

“Six Sigma business intelligence (BI) is a customer-focused, measurement-based approach to improving business intelligence. . . . Six Sigma means putting the customer first and striving for a product that is near perfection. Six Sigma principles have been used in the business world for years and have produced significant and frequently amazing results.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Study finds racial profiling of shoppers is real, but it goes unreported

“The results of the survey indicated that they don’t like it but they tend to let it go. Despite feeling angry, shocked, sad or embarrassed, 82 percent of those who said they had been racially profiled while shopping told the survey takers they never reported the experience to anyone other than their family and friends. About half still made a purchase at the store, said Dr. Gabbidon, who collaborated on the research with George Higgins from the University of Louisville.”

When Technology Turns Tradition on its Head

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

By Mike Shultz, Infoglide Software CEO

The rapid march of technology drives rapid change and, in some ways, the use of technology begins to undermine people’s habits that have endured for years and years. That’s a bold statement, but isn’t it interesting that Rep. Alice Borodkin, a state legislator in Colorado, is introducing a new law called the “Internet Auction Sales Act”. Her legislation will affect the longest-lived anonymous business transaction in the history of the world – the anonymous exchange of cash for goods.

For thousands of years, markets have existed that have allowed people to trade goods in an open way, exchanging money for product without the need for identification. Today, anyone can walk into Macy’s or Home Depot and buy anything for cash without ever giving any form of identification. In this case only one side of the transaction is anonymous – the buyer – and only if they buy with cash. Obviously, the buyer knows if he/she is in Macy’s or in the Home Depot. The buyer, in the case of Macy’s, has a good idea of who Macy’s is and how they operate their business. The legal understanding of contracts and purchases is well defined in case law and practice, and the courts have been actively involved in helping to protect the rights of the consumer for some time. Most retailers operate in accordance to local ordinances, and grievances are adjudicated locally.

Now comes the Internet auction site. Just exactly who are the parties to the transaction? Well, it’s hard to know exactly. The seller could be John55, whoever that is. The seller could be just about anybody. The buyer, however, has to be more defined. The buyer must have some form of payment that is tied to identity because mailing an envelope full of cash isn’t an option. And the buyer usually has to have an address to ship to that is tied to identity because receiving the goods in person isn’t often an option. So the buyer does not have anonymity.

Now that is turning the marketplace on its head, isn’t it? It used to be that the seller was known, and the buyer was anonymous. Now, the buyer is known, and the seller is anonymous. That is the point of Ms. Borodkin’s legislation. The technology that enables the 180 switch in who is who changes the whole relationship. Like, are the products legitimate? Is the chain of custody intact? Does the transaction enjoy the support of the manufacturer? Is the buyer buying stolen products that put money into the hands of criminals? Are the proceeds of the transaction being used to support something as awful as terrorism?

I am a technology guy. I have been for all of my adult life. I think technology changes the world in good ways. Technology also brings issues. Issues that have to be thought about. Issues that have lots of implications.

As for me, I am pleased that Ms. Borodkin will bring this issue to light. Discussion and debate is good. So is technology. If we talk about the issues that technological advances bring, it’s my opinion that we can continue to make progress. What do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.


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