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Chapter 1. PRIVACY AT RISK > The Data Industrial Complex

The Data Industrial Complex

What happens to all this data? It gets vacuumed up by huge data mining companies like Acxiom and ChoicePoint, who merge public and private data, then slice and dice it based on where you live, the products you buy, the magazines you read, how much money you make, and so on. This information is then resold to marketers, insurers, potential employers, and law enforcement agencies.

This data is used in myriad ways. For example, ChoicePoint's 19 billion records are used for employer background checks, drug screening, criminal records searches, locating deadbeat dads, preventing mortgage or insurance fraud, biometric screening, analyzing DNA samples, verifying applicants for public assistance programs, and making sure banks comply with the guidelines of the USA Patriot Act (see Figure 1-5). ChoicePoint records have been used to locate 822 missing children, and to scrub the names of alleged felons from the rolls of Florida voters in 2000. The company is a particular favorite of Uncle Sam. According to a 2001 report in the Wall Street Journal, ChoicePoint has contracts with 35 Federal agencies; on its web site, the company boasts of its contracts with the Department of Homeland Security.


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