SAS has developed a tool, which could allow fraud investigators or government departments to analyse social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and LinkedIn, to determine if an individual poses a risk.
The company says its Social Network Analysis tool allows investigators to uncover, "a complete picture of individual customers, their products, and networks at the click of a button."
The tool is able to explore entire networks of identities, accounts, claims and applications in minutes rather than hours. It enables users to drill down further into underlying data for full customer details, including other linked customers and networks, says SAS.
SAS says the software can be used by investigators to uncover previously unknown relationships. The software has been designed to check for fraudulent activities by analysing interactions between staff at financial institutions and their customers.
Charles Randall, product marketing manager for risk and performance management at SAS, said, "Our software is more than capable of looking at Facebook using our TextMiner tool to build a picture of a user's social relationships."
The software would be able to discover a Facebook user's most influential friends and who they communicate with the most, he said.
However, organisations that access this type of data may fall foul of the UK Data Protection Act, which states, "If you use 'spiders' or other scavenging-type programmes to collect e-mail addresses, or other personal information from the internet, you are likely to breach the act unless you are then using the information for the same reasons as it was provided for originally."
The Home Office is just a few weeks away from outlining its plans on how it will tap into correspondence on social networking sites and Skype calls.