Today’s Wall Street Journal has an good summary article, “For Big Vendor of Personal Data, A Theft Lays Bare the Downside” (Thanks, Nick!. Also, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has picked up the story, and made it available):
The vulnerability of the company’s data and its difficulty in tracking the breach point to a paradox. ChoicePoint and similar data sellers pitch their troves of private information as a hope for restoring personal security to a society fraught with anxiety over terrorism and crime. The chief executive of ChoicePoint, Derek Smith, espouses a thesis that society is better off if everyone can check the background of anyone else. Yet the very existence of these vast information stockpiles — vulnerable to both error and poaching — has spawned a new area of worry and risk.
“The needs of consumers and society must be the central focus of our company’s and our industry’s efforts,” Mr. Smith said in a statement yesterday. “We believe regulation will give consumers additional protections, remove risk from the industry model and ensure all competitors are playing on the same, level field.”
ChoicePoint collects data from insurers and an extensive network of contractors who scoop up nuggets from public filings, financial-services firms, phone directories and forms people fill out when applying for loans. Pointing to 7.3 million background checks it did last year, the company says just .0008% have been shown to contain incorrect information.
This last shows how far Choicepoint is from getting it. Choicepoint defines an error as a problem between their collector and the report; bad data collected, which we used to call the “garbage in, garbage out” problem, has been defined away.
Also, CSO Online has a good long article, “The Five Most Shocking Things About the ChoicePoint Debacle,” but this post is long enough, and CSO is interested in having readers, so I don’t feel as interested in excerpting.