Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Keystone Cops at Choicepoint

Flok dekoke will blow a gasket if we get a letter from Choicepoint in the coming days. Choicepoint is, in their own words, a "...leading provider of decision-making information that helps reduce fraud and mitigate risk." For those of you unfamiliar with this jewel of corporate America, Choicepoint handed over detailed information on 145,000 people including their social security numbers, addresses, telephone numbers etc. to criminal outsiders as they put it. I guess that truly makes them a leading provider of decision making information.

The jackasses at Choicepoint, and this is the kindest term one can use, have put out a statement on their website regarding the incident (http://www.choicepoint.com/news/statement_0205_1.html). They start off saying they are bending over backwards to help those affected by offering one year of free credit checking and a customer service telephone line. To understand how pathetic and disgraceful this offer is, you need to know that anyone can get a free credit check from any of the three credit rating agencies in the US each year. You can also buy one for less than $15 in most cases. What they don't tell you is the amount of work and vigilance that every person on that list will have to go through over the next several YEARS to make sure their good name is not being used by someone else wanting to go on a shopping spree.

The next paragraph goes on to say Choicepoint were not the victims of hackers, no one compromised their system. Presumably this means their services are intact and corporate clients need not take their business elsewhere. Phew, we were very concerned about this.

But this is not the first time Choicepoint is in the news. Two or three years ago, Choicepoint made the headlines in several countries by unethically obtaining identity records of almost every citizen in ten Latin American countries. This information was obtained without the authorization of anyone on the database and, as I recall reading, some juicy commisions may have been paid to government officials to get the information. See (http://www.cpa.org.au/garchve03/1138data.html) for more on that. The databases were then sold off to various US government agencies.

Every single keystone cop/officer at Checkpoint ought to be filing unemployment forms by now. Heck, they deserve the mother of all class action lawsuits! At the very least their own names and files should be added to those they so generously sold out.

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