Monday, February 21, 2005

"Here are a few criminals who'd like to know you"

The company many credit with stealing the 2000 Florida election for George W. Bush is back in the news for handing people's sensitive credit data to "bandits":

ChoicePoint Inc., under fire for being duped into allowing criminals to access its massive database of personal information, said Monday that consumers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories may have been affected by the breach of the company's credentialing process.

The company acknowledged last week that thieves apparently used previously stolen identities to create what appeared to be legitimate businesses seeking ChoicePoint accounts. The bandits then opened up 50 accounts and received volumes of data on consumers, including names, addresses, Social Security numbers and credit reports.

The ring...operated for more than a year before it was detected. Formed in 1997 as a spinoff of credit reporting agency Equifax Inc., ChoicePoint has 19 billion public records in its database at its suburban Atlanta headquarters.
Forbes.

19 billion. Whoa.
Attorneys general in 38 states have joined an open letter to ChoicePoint Inc., demanding that the data-brokering company do for their states' residents what they did for Californians - inform anybody affected by the security breach that they may be vulnerable to identity theft. Seattle Post Intelligencer.
So far, other than a muted mention in the St. Pete Times, I find no media noting the link between Choicepoint and the trashing of 91,000 black democrat votes in Florida during the 2000 election.

Now here's an interesting factoid: Florida is the only state that pays a private company that promises to "cleanse" voter rolls. (This was the contract for the Simulated 2000 George Bush Election Reality that put him in the White House.) Choicepoint's self-exculpatory story regarding Florida 2000 is here. And here is one description of how the company it purchased, DBT, blocked voters from doing their citizenly duty in 2000.

Back to the current predicament involving blown privacy for people all across the country (USA Today has victim estimates for each state):

The company learned of the problem in October, but did not notify those customers who were possibly affected until this month because authorities did not want to jeopardize their investigation.
Forbes.
USian media is always quick with the "because" clause. It gives us the secure feeling we can return to sleep. But whose "because" is this? Would it have been a tad embarrassing in the month before the 2004 election to have to admit that the very same Georgia Republican-run company that delivered the election in 2000 was this freaking incompetent? To remind us of their role at that delicate moment was dangerous enough. But what do we know of their role in the 2004 election? Not much, but there's this, and this. Did Bushco really want to air this right before the election?
"ATLANTA - Consumer data collector ChoicePoint Inc.'s mission is to arm customers with the information necessary to verify that the people they are doing business with are who they say they are.

That selling point has been turned on its head by bandits who were given access to the company's massive database by duping it into thinking they were someone they were not.

'The irony appears to be that ChoicePoint has not done its own due diligence in verifying the identities of those 'businesses' that apply to be customers,' said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group in San Diego. 'They're not doing the very thing they claim their service enables their customers to achieve,'
says Canadian lawyer David T.S. Fraser.
So Choicepoint's criminal fiasco doesn't appear in the headlines of 2004 for the company.

A few more bits:

ChoicePoint's board and executive roster are packed with Republican stars, including billionaire Ken Langone, a company director who was chairman of the fund-raising committee for New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's aborted run against Hillary Rodham Clinton. Langone is joined at ChoicePoint by another Giuliani associate, former New York Police Commissioner Howard Safir. And Republican power lobbyist and former congressman Vin Weber lobbies for ChoicePoint in Washington. Just before his death in 1998, Rick Rozar, president of a Choicepoint company, CDB Infotek, donated $100,000 to the Republican Party. Salon.
A semi-juicy bit about boardmember Langone here - two bits, in fact: allegedly defaming a competitor and allegedly misleading the NYSE about Dick Grasso's compensation.
The NYT does the obligatory soporific metapiece:
''Among other things, the law restricted the government from building databases of dossiers unless the information about individuals was directly relevant to an agency's mission. Of course, that's precisely what ChoicePoint, LexisNexis and other services do for the government. By outsourcing the collection of records, the government doesn't have to ensure the data is accurate, or have any provisions to correct it in the same way it would under the Privacy Act. There are no limits on how the information can be interpreted, all this at a time when law enforcement, domestic intelligence and foreign intelligence are beoming more interlinked.'' NYT.

10 Comments:

Blogger The Angry Engineer said...

Whoa. It's extremely scary that a company who wields so much power would have such strong partisan leanings. What's next - are they going to threaten to release the records of those who speak out against the administration?

2/23/2005 8:57 AM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Why release their records when it would be so much easier to steal their identities? The last entity you might want to trust is the one that pretends to be commodifying trust.

2/23/2005 8:14 PM  
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