Spying's New Frontier: Private Firm Collects Data on 'Every American Adult'

Spying's New Frontier: Private Firm Collects Data on 'Every American Adult'

"We have data on that 21-year-old who's living at home with mom and dad"

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One company has pioneered the powerful new industry known as data-fusion. (Photo: Janne Hellsten/flickr/cc)

The fight for internet privacy has focused much of its attention on government surveillance, but mass data collection is done by private companies as well—and one such firm has "centralized and weaponized" all that information for its customers, Bloomberg reports on Friday.

In fact, it has already built a profile on "every American adult," Bloomberg writes.

While "professional snoops" have trawled through public and nonpublic records databases to amass information on people for more than a decade, Bloomberg's David Gauvey Herbert highlights the company that has turned it into a powerful new industry for private investigators, government agencies, debt collectors, and other customers:

For more than a decade, professional snoops have been able to search troves of public and nonpublic records—known addresses, DMV records, photographs of a person’s car—and condense them into comprehensive reports costing as little as $10.

[....] IDI, a year-old company in the so-called data-fusion business, is the first to centralize and weaponize all that information for its customers. The Boca Raton, Fla., company's database service, idiCORE, combines public records with purchasing, demographic, and behavioral data.

The company's CEO Derek Dubner told Herbert that IDI's profiles even extend to young adults who wouldn't be found in conventional databases.

"We have data on that 21-year-old who's living at home with mom and dad," Dubner said.

The profiles reportedly include "all known addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses; every piece of property ever bought or sold, plus related mortgages; past and present vehicles owned; criminal citations, from speeding tickets on up; voter registration; hunting permits; and names and phone numbers of neighbors."

"Besides pitching its databases to big-name P.I.s (Kroll, Control Risks), law firms, debt collectors, and government agencies, IDI says it's also targeting consumer marketers," Herbert writes.

IDI also owns two coupon companies that collect data on purchasing and behavioral trends.

Roger Kay, president of the consulting firm Endpoint Technologies Associates, explained that it's those capabilities in particular that make IDI so powerful—and so creepy.

"The cloud never forgets, and imperfect pictures of you composed from your data profile are carefully filled in over time," Kay said. "We're like bugs in amber, completely trapped in the web of our own data."

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