20 January 2005

ChoicePoint: Your Identity is Big Business...

Why are people getting nervous about companies like ChoicePoint? This article in the Washington Post by Robert O'Harrow comes from his book, "No Place to Hide," published by Free Press, copyright 2005. O'Harrow also received financial assistance from the Center for Investigative Reporting. He outlines the arguments from both sides of the "Big Brother" issues:

Now the little-known information industry giant is transforming itself into a private intelligence service for national security and law enforcement tasks. It is snapping up a host of companies, some of them in the Washington area, that produce sophisticated computer tools for analyzing and sharing records in ChoicePoint's immense storehouses. In financial papers, the company itself says it provides "actionable intelligence.

The question remains whether legislation will ever have as much control over ChoicePoint as they have over companies like Equifax or the other credit reporting agencies. However, everyone must accept that our lives are about full disclosure of who we are and what our historical "Modus Operandi" can tell someone about how we might act into the future.

Public information is there because each one of us has opend a bank account, filled out a credit application, applied for a job and traveled on an airplane. ChoicePoint is there to make sure that risks are managed and losses are mitigated. Period.

One only has to imagine in these times of Identity Theft and Suspicious Activity Reports how important it is for the good and law abiding citizen not to be confused with the person with a questionable history. Frankly, I don't want to be mixed up with the other John Q. Public's on the planet. All the decisions I have made in my life have defined who I am, the zip code I live in, the car I drive and the schools and jobs that I've had.

There is one word of advice for those who don't mind the fact that their information is available to any one who wants to buy it. Make sure that it is accurate. This is where the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) and other legislation allows the consumer to get access to a majority of the information on file and to see that it is correct. If you can't live with what you are reading, then maybe it's time to make some changes in your life.

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