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ChoicePoint

From Academic Kids

ChoicePoint Template:NYSE is a corporation based in Alpharetta, near Atlanta, Georgia, USA, which claims to be the "nation's leading supplier of identification and credential verification services".

Contents

Overview

ChoicePoint has a DNA laboratory which was used to identify victims of the WTC attacks. Data supplied by ChoicePoint was used in the Beltway Snipers investigation. Choicepoint also assisted the Transportation Security Administration in conduction ~100,000 applicants. The US Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children credit the corporation with assisting in the return of ~800 missing children. As of 2003, ChoicePoint's CEO is Derek V. Smith, who has held that position since 1997. In 2002, ChoicePoint generated earnings of ~$200 million on revenue of ~$791 million. The company employs ~3,500 people at 52 locations within 26 states.

Florida Voter File Contract

In 1998, the state of Florida signed a $4 million contract with Database Technologies (DBT Online), which later merged into ChoicePoint, for the purposes of providing a central voter file listing those barred from voting. As of 2002, Florida is the only state which hires a private firm for these purposes. Prior to contracting with Database Technologies, Florida contracted with a smaller operator for $5,700 per year. The state of Florida contracted with DBT in November 1998, following the controversial Miami mayoral race of 1997. The 1998 contracting process involved no bidding and was worth $2,317,800.

Criticism Regarding the Florida Voter File

ChoicePoint has been criticized, by many critics of the 2000 election, for having a bias in favor of the Republican Party, for knowingly using inaccurate data, and for racial discrimination. Allegations include listing voters as felons for alleged crimes said to have been committed several years in the future. In addition, people who had been convicted of a felony in a different state and had their rights restored by said state, were not allowed to vote despite the restoration of their rights. (One should note Schlenther v. Florida Department of State (June 1998) which ruled that Florida could not prevent a man convicted of a felony in Connecticut, where his civil rights had not been lost, from exercising his civil rights.) Furthermore, it is argued that people were listed as felons based on a coincidence of names, despite other data (such as date of birth) which showed that the criminal record did not apply to the voter in question.

Journalist Greg Palast has argued that the firm cooperated with Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, and Florida Elections Unit Chief Clay Roberts, in a conspiracy of voter fraud, involving the central voter file, during the US Presidential Election of 2000. The allegations charge that 57,700 people (15% of the list), primarily Democrats of African-American and Hispanic descent, were incorrectly listed as felons and thus barred from voting. Palast estimates that 80% of these people would have voted, and that 90% of those who would have voted, would have voted for Al Gore. The official (and disputed) margin of victory, in the election, was 537 votes.

ChoicePoint Vice President Martin Fagan has admitted that at least 8,000 names were incorrectly listed in this fashion when the company passed on a list given by the state of Texas, these 8,000 names were removed prior to the election. Fagan has described the error as a "minor glitch". ChoicePoint, as a matter of policy, does not verify the accuracy of its data and argues that it is the user's responsibility to verify accuracy.

On April 17, 2000, at a special Congressional hearing in Atlanta, ChoicePoint Vice-President James Lee testified that Florida had ordered DBT to add to the list voters who matched 80% of an ineligible voter's name; middle initials and suffixes were to be dropped, while nicknames and aliases were added. In addition, names were considered reversible, for example; Clarence Thomas could be added in place of Thomas Clarence. Lee opened his testimony by noting that ChoicePoint intended to get out of the voter purge industry. Then, on February 16, 2001, DBT Senior Vice-President George Bruder testified before the US Civil Rights Commission that the company had misinformed the Florida Supervisors of Elections regarding the usage of race in compiling the list. Greg Palast concludes, "An African-American felon named John Doe might wipe out the registration of an innocent African-American Will Whiting, but not the rights of an innocent Caucasian Will Whiting." Palast believes that 80%, of the 57,700 people he argues were illegally barred from voting, were African-American.

For more information regarding the voter file in the context of the 2000 election controversy, see Florida Central Voter File, 2000 Florida Election Controversy.

In January 2000, Pennsylvania terminated its contract with ChoicePoint after alleging that the firm had illegally sold citizens' personal information.

DBT Online

DBT Online was founded by Hank Asher as Database Technologies. The group once had a data management contract with the FBI, however, this was terminated following allegations that Asher was associated with Bahamian drug dealers. (1 p.18)


According to Vanity Fair article 050131 "The Net's Master Data-miner"

  • When maverick cyber-pioneer Hank Asher invented MATRIX (http://www.vanityfair.com/commentary/content/articles/050131roco01), Vanity Fair 050131: "When maverick cyber-pioneer Hank Asher invented MATRIX—a controversial personal-information database—he gave the government a powerful tool for tracking terrorists. So why isn't he a hero?."

"In the spring of 2000, soon after Hank Asher's departure, DBT went into high gear on a $4 million contract with the state of Florida that would mire it in controversy for years to come. Part of the assignment was to scan every relevant database to come up with the names of ex-felons who had registered to vote, then pass the list on to Florida's 67 counties so that the felons could be struck from the rolls, in accordance with Florida law. In the legal finger-pointing that followed, DBT would claim that Florida's Division of Elections, under Secretary of State Katherine Harris, encouraged it to cast as wide a net as possible. Of the more than 50,000 names it came up with as a result, some 20,000 would be registered voters who simply had the misfortune of sharing a name, part of a name, or an inverted name with an actual ex-felon. A disproportionate number of blacks would be barred from the polls in the presidential election, and civil-rights groups would accuse Governor Jeb Bush's administration of using the purge to disenfranchise blacks, who would have voted, in all likelihood, for Al Gore over George W. Bush."

DBT competes with Seisint, Asher's later creation. Seisint was sold to LexisNexis earlier this year (2004) for $775 million.

Diversity

ChoicePoint received a 100% rating on the Corporate Equality Index released by the Human Rights Campaign starting in 2003, the second year of the report.

Quotes

  • Vice-President Martin L. Fagan
    • "Given the outcome of our work in Florida and with a new president in place, we think our services will expand across the country."
  • ChoicePoint Spokesman Chuck Jones on compromise of ChoicePoint database in Oct 2004

"California is the focus of the investigation and we don't have any evidence to indicate at this point that the situation has spread beyond California. If at some point in time we get information that it's in other areas, we'll revisit the disclosure."

  • Dorsey & Whitney computer fraud division partner Nick Akerman on compromise of ChoicePoint database in Oct 2004

"I've never heard of a hacker doing something just to make a company comply with a state statute that's ridiculous,It'd be like robbing a bank that wasn't FDIC insured so the robber wouldn't have to be prosecuted by the FBI."

  • ChoicePoint Spokesman James Lee on compromise of ChoicePoint database in Oct 2004

"This is the worst in our seven years,This is extraordinarily serious."

  • Email From California Victim who received letter from ChoicePoint

"How dare they even try to make money using my Social Security Number in the first place, Where did they get it from? I certainly didn't give it to them; I never heard of them before receiving the letter. In fact, I almost threw it out unopened, because I thought it was going to be a credit card solicitation or a reduced rate mortgage scam."

  • Forrester Research Security Analyst Jonathan Penn

"What ChoicePoint is doing now, how they're handling it, is horrible, ChoicePoint is doing the minimum required and making statements that are patently absurd." "Being a custodian of such aggregated data, ChoicePoint is an extremely obvious target,they should have network perimeter security measures, insider security measures, encryption Latest News about encryption measures, strong authentication, customer ID verification and many other procedures to avoid this security incident, breach of trust and business loss."

External links

References

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