Georgia-based ChoicePoint Inc. has become an all-purpose commercial source of personal information about Americans, with billions of details about their homes, cars, relatives, criminal records, and other aspects of their lives, the Washington Post reports. The information industry giant is transforming itself into a private intelligence service for national security and law enforcement tasks. The company says it provides “actionable intelligence.” “We do act as an intelligence agency, gathering data, applying analytics,” said vice president James A. Zimbardi.
The Post says that ChoicePoint and other private companies increasingly occupy a special place in homeland security and crime-fighting efforts, in part because they can compile information and use it in ways government officials sometimes cannot because of privacy and information laws. Critics say it will soon be hard for people looking for work or access to sensitive facilities ever to shake off a criminal past or small transgression, such as a bounced check or minor arrest. Chris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Centersaid ChoicePoint is helping to create a ” ‘Scarlet Letter’ society.”