|How much are your personal details
It's hardly breaking news that your personal information
is being collected, aggregated, packaged and sold by data brokers
every day. Each time you receive a credit card solicitation, mortgage
flier or insurance offer, chances are good that the sender obtained
at least some of your information from a commercial data broker.
How much are the details of your life worth on the
Toolkit, an online data calculator presented by the independent
research consortium Preemptive
Media, offers the going price on 46 items of personal data,
Figures in the Swipe Toolkit calculator
were compiled from a handful of major data brokers, most of which
you've probably never heard of: Accurint,
Data and Pallorium.
Let's take a closer look at how
data brokers get our information, what they do with it and the challenges
they face to keep it secure.
Ghost in the machine
Commercial data brokers collect most of their information from public
records, or from specialized data providers that mine public records,
such as the RBOX regional operating Bell companies, which provide
telephone information from the white pages.
In many cases, the data aggregators actually sell back to government
and industry the same information they collected in the first place.
In fact, we'd be stuck in the slow lane as a society if they didn't,
according to James Lee, chief marketing officer for ChoicePoint,
the industry leader based in Alpharetta, Ga.
"The infrastructure doesn't
exist for the government to share data with itself, particularly
within different levels of government," Lee says. "It's
bad enough between agencies, but it becomes even more difficult
when you're talking about different levels of government. Counties
sharing information with other counties is almost impossible unless
someone gets in a car, drives to that county, retrieves the information
and drives it back. What the private sector does very well is build
the infrastructure which allows that information, which is public,
to flow freely across jurisdictional and geographical lines. That's
the benefit that the private sector has brought to this process."
ChoicePoint offers data in four
business categories: insurance (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting
Exchange or CLUE reports), workplace solutions (for pre-employment
background checks), government services (primarily used by law enforcement)
and direct marketing (primarily used by financial institutions to
market to existing customers). It also offers at a deep discount
data to nonprofit groups who want to weed out criminals and sex
offenders, for instance.