If you’re paranoid about Big Government invading your privacy and collecting your information, you are fearing the wrong monster. In fact, it’s not so much the government that is collecting files on every adult living in the U.S. (although there are federal and state agencies that do such things) – it’s Corporate America. The reason? There is big money to be made by selling your profile to anyone who wants to buy it.
The major player is a company you’ve probably never heard of. The name of the company is Interactive Data Intelligence, or IDI. Based in Boca Raton, Florida with branch offices in Atlanta, Georgia and Seattle, Washington, this company, founded little over a year ago, is in the business of “data fusion.”
IDI uses proprietary database technology, known as idiCORETM, in order to collect and analyze vast amounts of data on virtually every aspect of people’s lives – right down to the kind of socks they wear or the brand of toothpaste they prefer. This data is combined, or “fused” with public records gathered from law enforcement agencies, municipal and county governments, motor vehicle departments and educational institutions, as well as non-public records.
The result is a “comprehensive report” on YOU. These reports are available for as little as $10; from them, the buyer can learn almost everything about you, including details you yourself may have forgotten long ago.
Why are they doing it? Ostensibly, it is for “risk management,” providing assistance to debt collectors, insurance companies and the like. IDI also offers “digital marketing solutions,” helping marketing companies to find large numbers of targeted consumers. According to IDI’s website, it’s all about saving their clients time and money. This is true; there was a time when private investigators and marketing executives had to comb through endless records manually from many different sources – whether paper or digital.
The advent of that digital technology has made it easier to peruse and gather that information, to be sure, but IDI and its “idiCORE solution” has put it all on steroids, using combinations of public records, demographic studies, behavioral data and anything else it can get its virtual hands on. It is now very easy and relatively inexpensive to compile a complete and comprehensive dossier on every adult living in the country – and they have.
According to the company’s CEO, Derek Dubner, they already have complete files on all of us. IDI is not even waiting for the requests to come in. IDI knows every place you’ve ever lived, every job you’ve ever held, every car you’ve ever owned, where you’ve gone to school, your religious beliefs, your hobbies, the TV shows and movies you watch, what you spend on groceries and what products you buy, what political candidates you’ve supported, and more.
Dubner brags, “We have data on that 21-year-old who’s living at home with mom and dad.”
According to a company press release posted at BusinessWire, tt’s going to get even bigger and more invasive.
“…this product will continually evolve…coupled with our proprietary analytics and linking technology, greater data translates to greater insight.”
IDI is now expanding its tentacles into government, the financial services industry, law enforcement, criminal records, and insurance. The company even has a couple of websites of its own, which offer coupons to consumers willing to register and answer questions such as “Do you or have you ever suffered from ___________ ?” or “What magazines do you read regularly?” Supposedly, the purpose of such questions is to provide consumers with the most useful money saving coupons.
And if you believe that’s all there is it, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn we could offer to sell to you…
Pretty much, anything that you have ever done is fair game as this company continues to harvest data that will allow others to get inside your head and determine what you are thinking and who you are. This may seem sinister, and there is good reason why all of us should be concerned.
Needless to say, you aren’t allowed to know what’s in your file. In theory, access is limited to those who have a legitimate reason and authorization; currently, only licensed private investigators (of whom there are 35,000 in the U.S.) can obtain subscriptions. Those PIs are subject to oversight and regulation by the Federal Trade Commission. However, PIs are making so many requests for information these days that the FTC is having a hard time keeping up with it all. This means that private investigators are essentially keeping tabs on themselves, and we know how that tends to play out.
Realistically, little (if any) of IDI’s data fusion activities are going to affect you personally, at least for now. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to feel violated by this almost obsessive drive to know every intimate detail about our lives.
Can you prevent it? Not completely, unfortunately. There are too many databases out there and too much available information already. You can avoid giving them more, however. Be careful about what you post online, on forums and social media sites. Understand that when you register for any website and you are required to answer a number of questions – pertinent to the website or not – chances are good that all your answers are ultimately going to wind up in IDI’s corporate database and used for who knows what. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t volunteer anything.
It’s a sad state of affairs when our lives are reduced to commodities to be collected, bought and sold. We may not be able to stop it altogether – but we can at least resist.