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FBI Turns To Private Sector for Data

michael posted about 13 years ago | from the nowhere-to-hide dept.

Privacy 298

MSNBC is running a nice piece about a private company that aggregates data about you and sells it to the government. Things like this are why I just don't understand the typical Libertarian babble that government data collection is bad, but corporations should be allowed to collect and sell whatever data they want. Hey, guess what: if a corporation can collect and sell your information, it's available to the government too. Ten billion records! That's more than 30 lines of data - each line could have dozens of pieces of information - about every man, woman and child in the United States. The mind boggles.

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298 comments

Um, no. (5)

oGMo (379) | about 13 years ago | (#293445)

Corporations have an innocent and noble aim, to make money. They have no interest in advancing political agendas or using that information to harm people. They use data to benefit people - through focused marketing. With information, they can give us the products we want.

Um. When you say, "Corporations have an innocent and noble aim, to make money", you're right; although I wouldn't really consider this either innocent or noble, but nonetheless, their goal is to make money. However, you then go on to say that they have our (our being consumers, etc.) interests in mind.

They don't. Not at all. Their goal is to make money. Period. Not to make products. Not to benefit the consumer. To get the consumer to give them as much money as they can, while doing as little as possible in return (because the more you do, the less profit you make). This is how business works today.

You can further see this by looking at all the silly patents and lawsuits that come up; these corporations have figured out that they don't even need to make anything to get money, they can just sue the pants off anyone who has an idea they've claimed. It's pretty sickening.

The information collected by corporations is simply to find where they can make the most money, not, as you assert, to "give us the products we want". If you were right, the RIAA would be donating music and money to napster for us all.

(This is not to say that some people in some corporations have more noble goals. It's just to say that this is not the corporate goal.)

Now the government is rather the opposite situation. Their goal is not to make money. It is to govern the people. Unfortunately, you have the opposite problem you had with corporations; the government as a whole might have a (somewhat) noble goal, but you get individuals and groups who struggle for more and more power.

Now claims of privatizing everything, without any thought as to the current state of the system, and what implications there would be for moving to a privatized system, and indeed what implications at all a privatized system would have, are just silly. (CA, power, deregulation.) Now, to put policing power in the hands of a corporation (whose goal is to do nothing but make money) just smacks of abuse.

You miss the point, as well. The government is owned by people, too. (Unless you think it is owned by aliens or something.) Just a lot more people. Each one of us. Corporations abuse us just as badly, just in different ways and for different goals.

"That is all we need to know" sounds like brainwashing or stubborn blindness to reality, too, if you ask me.

Re:When will you learn? (2)

Enry (630) | about 13 years ago | (#293451)

The typical "Libertarian babble" is to allow corporations to do as they please. If a company wants to do something to piss off its customers, then the customer should be smart enough (read: not too apathetic) to not do business with that company.

Riiiight. Boycots don't work anymore. Companies are too well diversified for this to happen easily, especially the large multinationals. Go take a look at companies like GE, GM, Sony, and Philip Morris and tell me you can drive any of them out of business. We've been working on MS for 10 years and have barely put a dent in their bottom line.

Re:When will you learn? (2)

Enry (630) | about 13 years ago | (#293452)

The problem is the vast majority of people that just don't care.

...which is the other reason why they don't work.

Re:I see no problem with it really. (3)

Enry (630) | about 13 years ago | (#293453)

Because they would just hire the Pinkertons, who would show up and kill the rioters.

See early 1900s history, unions, and Buffalo for more on that one.

Re:I see no problem with it really. (1)

antv (1425) | about 13 years ago | (#293456)

Well, the problem, to put it simply, is lack of control. Govt. is (or at least should be) bound by restrictions, i.e. police needs a warrant to monitor your conversations, and we (the public) could observe them and check that they do it for public good.

There's nothing, on the other hand, that stops corporations s.a. Verizon, from monitoring your calls for profit only, uncontrollably.

Secodndly, the government is completely different from this. It exists to advance a political agenda and control every detail of our lives. It has a moral outloook, and if your morals are different you are screwed.

You elect the government. Dont like police beating - vote Harry Browne. Want clean air - vote Ralph Nader. Want to see how dumb a president could be - vote ... oh, never mind that one ...

On the contrary, you do not elect corporations. You are forced to obey whatever they tell you to do pretty much the same way you're forced to obey laws - i.e. techinically you could ignore laws or corporate agreements, but you'll face the consequences

Corporations have a record of non-abuse, and are owned by the people.

Not exactly, but I like your sence of humor. Corporations care about people, help people and protect people. For a list of people browse www.forbes.com.

Opinions are mine only and could change without notice.

As a registered Libertairian... (2)

singularity (2031) | about 13 years ago | (#293457)

Yes, there is something wrong with the government getting ahold of information about me. There should always be a choice when it comes to information, and there should always be an exchange.

Take grocery store discount cards. I have a choice of whether or not I want to sign up in the first place. Then there is an exhange - they give me a discount in exchange for them being able to follow my spending habits.

Hopefully they can use this information to notice what brands I buy in order to better serve me in the future.

Credit card companies track me, but I have a choice of having a card (I do not), and they give me services in exchange for using their cards. I have theft protection, and easy access to money.

Slashdot tracks me through the use of cookies but I have a choice in the matter (I run a client that allows/disallows cookies based on the domain), and in exchange for Slashdot looking after me, I get to tailor what I want to see when I come here.

This brings us to the government. What choice do I have if a company wants to sell my habits to the government? None. What do I get out of this exhange? Nothing but a loss of privacy.

Before you reply to this comment talking about my grocery store selling my information to other companies - I have signed up using a false name, address, and phone number. Not only that, but the grocery gave me four cards when I signed up, and I distributed the other three to friends in other cities. The information they gather about me is useful to the store, but useless to other companies since it would be impossible to track me down fromthe information they have.

Yes, credit card companies could sell information about me to other companies, and this is one reason I do not have a card. However, there is still a choice in the matter (getting a card or not), and the credit card company still provides benifits. You just have to weigh the benifits against all of what the company does to you (tracks you *and* sells the information).

Really need to jam this sort of thing (2)

Booker (6173) | about 13 years ago | (#293462)

Ok, so there's not THAT much you can do, but every little bit helps.

DO NOT fill out those warranty cards unless they're required for the warranty. Weber, Inc. really is not entitled to know your household family income and hobbies just because you bought a freakin' grill...

If you use those "discount" cards in supermarkets, well - first, don't, but if you do, be sure to swap them with your friends whenever you can. Otherwise they know your preference for Fat Tire over Budweiser, etc.

Use cash.

Don't participate when some yokel calls you to ask bout your radio station listening habits.

Use junkbuster to filter out the cookies.*

Etc... feel free to add to the list...

*isn't it time to make a big "cookie swap" service on the net, to essentially randomize those doubleclick cookies? I'd be happy to let them thorugh if I could swap them with somebody else out of a pool of 100,000 every hour...

---

Re:Bastards! (1)

DeadEye (6229) | about 13 years ago | (#293464)

One could say that they work for these companies so that they have potatos to pass.. Times being what they are and all ;)

Re:I see no problem with it really. (1)

DeadEye (6229) | about 13 years ago | (#293465)

Data being available publicvally is good, as long as it is not abused. Corporations have a record of non-abuse, and are owned by the people. The government does not and is not. That is all we need to know.

Hmm, where is this record of non-abusing corporations? And since when are corporations owned by the people? If that's so, shouldn't I be raking in some dividends on all these corporations? The corporations have PRIVATE interests at heart. That is very very different from having PUBLIC interests at heart. If it weren't different, we wouldn't have corporations who pollute, pay off lawsuits instead of performing recalls, drive prices up, and generally make popular culture as stupid as it is. I'm no expert, but a few of your statements just caught my eye.

When will you learn? (1)

Moonwick (6444) | about 13 years ago | (#293466)

Michael, once again you're added your trademark idiotic commentary to what could possibly have been an interesting story.

The typical "Libertarian babble" is to allow corporations to do as they please. If a company wants to do something to piss off its customers, then the customer should be smart enough (read: not too apathetic) to not do business with that company.

Unfortunately, thanks to people like you, the prevaling notion is that the government should step in like a big "daddy" to take care of the innocent little consumers whenever the big, bad company takes advantage of them. This should be the exception, and not the rule.

One day you'll learn.

Re:When will you learn? (1)

Moonwick (6444) | about 13 years ago | (#293467)

Obviously the readership of slashdot is vocal in trying to defeat entities that may try to opress them. But slashdot is quite the minority. The problem is the vast majority of people that just don't care.

Re:I see no problem with it really. (1)

swb (14022) | about 13 years ago | (#293478)

Or Norma Rae or more nauseatingly, Erin Brockovitch. Nauseating to know that a business deliberately dumped poison into a community and then lied about it.

Re:I see no problem with it really. (3)

CokeBear (16811) | about 13 years ago | (#293481)

Corporations have an innocent and noble aim, to make money.

I can't believe that you type this with a straight face. There is nothing innocent and noble about pursuing profit above all else.

Corporations destroy our environment, abuse workers (what do you think minimum wage would be if there were no unions? We only need to look to where your Nikes were made for the answer)

Corporations are about expoitation. Suck as much cash out of the consumer as possible, lie to the consumer as much as you can possibly get away with, only regard the health and safety of employees and consumers when mandated by law. (How safe were cars before government regulations?)

If you want a prime example of why libertarianism is doomed to fail, you only need to look as far as the Tobacco industry, which lied to consumers for decades, before finally being forced to come clean and admit that cigarettes were both addictive and harmful. (Standard Libertarian answer would be that its a person's choice to smoke, but I would argue that most people begin smoking when they are young, before they are fully capable of understanding the consequenses of their actions, and nicotine, being a more addictive substance than heroin, is manipulated to make it very difficult for people to quit.)

The reality is that Libertarianism only works if Corporations are 100% honest with consumers, and consumers are 100% informed. Neither is ever true. It is rarely in a corporation's best interest to be honest with consumers. Whole marketing departments are devoted to getting people to turn off thier brains.

Libertarianism is flawed, because it makes some very flawed assumptions, and aim for a kind of Utopian society that we can never achieve.

(Just my opinion... flame away)

Don't mod me up, Reply with something intelligent instead

Re:I see no problem with it really. (2)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 13 years ago | (#293493)

"Corporations have a record of non-abuse"

I almost choked on my gum when I read that. Go rent the movie Matewan [imdb.com]. It should be available at any video store.

For those of you who aren't going to go rent it, I'll give you the short version. It's about a West Virgina town in the 20s just as mine workers are starting to unionize. The corporation they work for, with its innocent and noble aim of making money, beats the crap out of people.

-B

Re:Information collection is not always bad (1)

joshwa (24288) | about 13 years ago | (#293494)

You ask what the difference is between your garage keeping a record of all your oil changes, etc, and some big evil corporation doing the same?

Well, the difference is this: your garage keeps only the information it needs in order to do business with you. What if all of a sudden, your mechanic went out to all the other businesses you frequent-- your supermarket, your drycleaners, or got out your criminal record, your employment history, etc? Would that be an invasion of privacy?

What if then, they sold it to the highest bidder, without asking you if they could share that information with anyone else? Do you think you still implicitly consented to that when you decided you use all those services?

You didn't. You agreed to let the mechanic keep track of *one* piece of data about you-- your car. You didn't agree to let him share it with anybody else, nor should you have to.

It's not the data-tracking people are objecting to, it's the sharing of said data with people you may or may not trust, and the sale of such information without your consent.

We won't even begin to talk about what happens when your mechanic makes an error in his system about what kind of car you own (maybe a jalopy instead of your mercedes), which simultaneously gets transferred to seventeen other databases around the world (your employers', the governments', your dry cleaners', the banks'), whose psychographic profiles of you now put you in a "high-risk" demographic, and you can't get loans or service or be eligible for credit.

I know that's a worst-case scenario, but this is what PRIVACY POLICY is for-- not just for websites but for all our personal information. We should have the right to choose who can see it and who can sell it.

We can all sleep better now. (5)

Claudius (32768) | about 13 years ago | (#293504)

I find this excerpt from the linked article to be interesting: Although ChoicePoint says it has records on nearly every American with a credit card, it doesn't always provide access to that data. The company's Autotrack service is popular with many agencies and businesses and is also used by reporters at The Wall Street Journal. But entering the name of FBI Director Louis Freeh into the Autotrack database produces an error message. A company spokesman says ChoicePoint intentionally blocks Mr. Freeh's records as an act of good corporate citizenship.

Translation of the last line: "A company spokesman says that the publicly held firm, ChoicePoint, is not so stupid as to endanger its stockholder's investments by providing information on the man heading one of ChoicePoint's biggest client organizations." Apparently this comment by the ChoicePoint drone is intended to make us all feel better, as if we all hobnob with politically heavyweights of Freeh's standing.

Bastards! (4)

Grendel Drago (41496) | about 13 years ago | (#293510)

How can anyone work for these evil, evil companies?

"What did you do at work, sweetie?"

"Invaded the privacy of millions!" [Sparkling grin]

"Wow, that's swell. Pass the potatoes..."

How? It must take an army of underpaid monkeys to do this evil thing. Government employees I can see, but these are normal people not looking for an agenda.

Truly mind-boggling.

-grendel drago

Re:i'm gonna get flamed for this one... (2)

jazman_777 (44742) | about 13 years ago | (#293512)

I dont understand what the huge issue is. I personally dont encrypt anything. I dont worry about it. I dont worry about people who know what porn sites I go to, or what news sites I read. I dont care that someone tracks what computer parts I buy online, or what my typical path of bored websurfing is. I dont have anything to hide. If the government cares what sites I look at, why is that supposed to bother me? Let them buy the data, let them skim through it. Let them realize I'm harmless and move on. If they find one valuable clue in this that someone is doing something illegal, then I feel it was money well spent. The rest of us have nothing to worry about.

Hey, could you send me just one of your credit card numbers? Or do I have to go to the web and get all of them?
--

Re:Libertarian answers (1)

Betcour (50623) | about 13 years ago | (#293516)

Yeah. Now go ask Doubleclick what they know about you... oh wait, they won't tell you ? could it be that you are WRONG ? what are you gonna do ? sue ? Isn't that asking the help of a civil servant from the governement ? I thought big boys like you didn't need no stink'in governement...

Re:Libertarian babble? (3)

klund (53347) | about 13 years ago | (#293521)

The difference between corporate and governmental data collecting can be summed up as:

1) Lie to a corporation, and you don't get a free keychain.

2) Lie to the government, and you go to jail.

Is that clear enough?
--

Well... (1)

jmccay (70985) | about 13 years ago | (#293530)

I'd hate to see what it will be like in a few years. I am surprised some angry hacker hasn't tried to erase these data bases. I would think they'd want to do that--at least for "I did it" value.

Re:WTF? (1)

limpdawg (77844) | about 13 years ago | (#293536)

The fourth amendment does not and has not ever covered private collection of data. If I go and get information about you that the government would need a warrant to get, and it is legal for me to collect this data (Good example: recording telephone conversations like Linda Tripp did. Comlpetely legal in most places) and give it to the government. If they give me some money in return that's even better.

Outsourcing (2)

Puk (80503) | about 13 years ago | (#293537)

The government always outsources tasks, since they've shown that they're not much good at anything to begin with. Outsourcing intelligence is the next logical step -- you saw what happened with China when they tried to do it themselves (yes, that's half-joking).

I can't wait till they start outsourcing legislation and the judiciary. Maybe something useful will get done for once. On the other hand, you saw what happened when they out-sourced the prison system. fear

-Puk

Privacy? (1)

EarTrumpet (85772) | about 13 years ago | (#293545)

I recently tracked down an old friend who's never even been near the internet using these sites:

AnyBirthday.com [anybirthday.com]

Black Book Online [crimetime.com] (love that warning!)

While I thought it was cool that I could track someone down, sites like AnyBirthday.com bother me because they reveal very personal information. (Oh yeah, you can opt out, but, only if you have access to the net and know about the site to begin with.)

Saw a story about this the other day... (3)

Greyfox (87712) | about 13 years ago | (#293547)

They were talking about Amtrack getting 10% of the haul from successful DEA busts in return for which Amtrack would give the DEA information on customers who used cash to buy one-way tickets as well as "suspecious" credit card purchases.

The nice thing about getting information from a private company is they don't have any nasty concerns about due process or constitutional rights. As a customer you pretty much surrender all that stuff if you want to deal with them. I would, however, question the constitutionality of an enforcement agency being able to use information provided under such a deal. IANAL, but I'd be interested to know if the Supreme Court has dealt with this sort of issue in the past and what their decision was in any such cases.

completely missing the point (2)

ChristTrekker (91442) | about 13 years ago | (#293548)

There's a big difference between voluntarily giving your information to a private company, and the gov't compiling information about you without your OK. The company has incentive (money) for offering you a good service, and you have incentive for using that service (time, peace of mind). But why would the gov't want all this information about you? What good could they possibly do with it? And what benefit do you get from it? None. So why are they doing it? The gov't should stay out of our private lives on the principle of it alone.


I have zero tolerance for zero-tolerance policies.

Re:I see no problem with it really. (2)

briancarnell (94247) | about 13 years ago | (#293549)

As a libertarian myself, its this kind of nonsense ("corporations have an innocent and noble aim") that I suspect Michael was referring to as "libertarian babble." Libertarianism is not and should not be reduced to simple mindless worship of corporations. Most corporations suck and don't give a flying f--- about property rights as libertarians frame them.

One site to bind them. (2)

haystor (102186) | about 13 years ago | (#293552)

I heard the only column in the database they could join on was with /. users. So as long as you don't use /. they can't aggregate all the data about you.

My sources are impeccable. Really.

One Big Fat Difference (2)

twitter (104583) | about 13 years ago | (#293554)

I don't pay my government to spy on me or buy data like that. If a private firm wishes to spend money tracking my root beer drinking habits and it involves no coersion, so be it. My government should not spend a dime either compiling such data or looking at it.

Well slap my ass and call me Charlie... (2)

blazin (119416) | about 13 years ago | (#293560)

[Congress responded by passing the Privacy Act of 1974, which was designed to discourage such wholesale data gathering. While the law doesn't explicitly prohibit the government from compiling dossiers on presumably law-abiding private citizens, the FBI and other agencies in the past have generally interpreted it that way. Moreover, some of those agencies' own internal guidelines bar them from actively assembling such files themselves.]

So let me get this straight... The law basically says that the FBI and other government agencies cannot compile a dossier on a presumed law-abiding citizen, but it's ok to purchase said dossier as long as they didn't compile it themselves. Seems to me the end result is exactly the same.

I say basically since it appears that there is not a direct law keeping the government from doing this sort of thing, but since they all interpret it that way, maybe they should... And it should be included that obtaining this information on presumed law-abiding citizens is just as bad.

It's like saying well, it's illegal to build a bomb, but not to purchase or be in possession of one. Or marijuana, or any other number of things.

my personal 30 lines of data... (2)

mr_gerbik (122036) | about 13 years ago | (#293561)

I imagine the data about myself looks something like:

"PAST HTTP ACTIVITY->(www.slashdot.org->www.persiankitty.com- >ww w.slashdot.org->www.goatse.cx->www.persiankitty.co m-> www.persiankitty.com
CC ACTIVITY->([19.95->www.cyberxxx.com],[14.95->www.a maz on.com],[4.95->www.hairyladies.com])
PAST WEEK WHEREABOUTS->(HOME->HOME->HOME->HOME->HOME->HOME) "

So what? (1)

Puck The Trickster (126825) | about 13 years ago | (#293566)

Now the government knows about us? What else is new? I don't know why they are buying the information, since they have that nifty Census thing they can do every ten or so years. And most of the information about us is not where we hide our guns in our houses, or where our children go to school; the majority of the information the corps have on us is our buying capacity, what we like in ads and television. This isn't a terrible invasion of privacy, and it's not the beginning of the Thought Police, this is just the government's attept to......

I really don't know why they would want this information.

Re:I see no problem with it really. (3)

Leven Valera (127099) | about 13 years ago | (#293567)

You're kind of a rare bright egg, aren't you?

Corporations aren't interested in advancing political agendas? RIAA? DCMA?

Governments are only interested in control? Own a house? That's right, the gov made it possible for you to have a mortgage, and not pay exorbitant fees to the corporation actually lending you the money.

You want to farm out government functions to corporations only interested in making money? Hey, that's great. Hold out your arm, we'll put your barcode on. Careful in front of the telescreens.

Privatize police? How much do you spend on a murder? How much will you pay for peace of mind?
Where's the profit?

Accurate data ? (2)

CBoy (129544) | about 13 years ago | (#293568)

What guarantees this data is accurate? What guarantees it's from only US Residents?
It also says:
"The FBI has located nearly 1,300 subjects of criminal cases using these kinds of searches,"

What I'm curious is how many times people have been harassed and or publicly embarrased because the FBI's data they bought is WRONG?

Re:I see no problem with it really. (3)

rgmoore (133276) | about 13 years ago | (#293571)

The reason the cops use guns? Permanent subjugation.

And, of course, no private company interested in maximizing profits would ever kill somebody for a silly motive like saving the cost of a trial and imprisonment. We know that the legal system is perfect, and poor people would always be able to afford lawyers who would be guaranteed to win them big judgments against large corporations and force them to care about people's saftey.

Give me a damn break. Corporations as a group have given ample evidence that they don't give a damn about people, only money, and if it turns out that it's cheaper to hire good lawyers and have the cops shoot people to save on imprisonment costs then that's exactly what they'll do. They already do things like deciding that it's cheaper to kill people with things like pollution and accidents and settle the lawsuits than to clean up their act. Why believe that shooting criminals will be treated any differently, particularly when it's so easy to put a gun in the hand of the guy you've just shot to make it look like it was justified?

Re:I see no problem with it really. (2)

shren (134692) | about 13 years ago | (#293573)

Look at the rioting in Cincinati. If policing were private, that would not have happened.

Why?

Re:I see no problem with it really. (2)

shren (134692) | about 13 years ago | (#293574)

Corporations aren't interested in advancing political agendas? RIAA? DCMA?

The typical Libertarian answer to this is that the government has too much power. The government has constantly expanded it's power base, and thus it has more and more to offer through lobbies. If you are an industry *cough* textiles *cough* and you can lobby the government to outlaw your competitors *cough* hemp *cough*, then at some point somebody's going to do it.

You have to break the cycle somewhere. Either you need to stop the lobbying (questionable, ethically, because there are valid reasons to lobby), or you have to lower the power of the government by restricting it to it's constuitional foundations, which doesn't really allow for making formerly legal products illegal.

Re:I see no problem with it really. (1)

dcollins (135727) | about 13 years ago | (#293575)

Look at the rioting in Cincinati. If policing were private, that would not have happened.

I'm a former Libertarian, and man, you have got to be joking. Look here [mediafilter.org] for an essay on the use and abuses of private security guards, and here [mediafilter.org] for an analysis of abuses in privately-run prisons.

I mean, god forbid that we engage in democracy and have authorities held accountable to a public decision-making process, or maintain social programs that are supported by the majority of our citizens.

Re:I see no problem with it really. (1)

egburr (141740) | about 13 years ago | (#293576)

They use data to benefit people - through focused marketing. With information, they can give us the products we want.

The use data to benefit themselves. Through focused marketing, they try to convince us that we want and need things we really don't want or need. They certainly don't give us the products; they ocnvince us to pay for them.

Edward Burr

And why do you care? (1)

rmst (157328) | about 13 years ago | (#293592)

I guess it's my complete faith in that wonderful word government, but, why would you care unless you have something to hide? Would you rather they were doing it in secret? (Well, OK, they are anyways) Information from credit bureaus, marketers and regulatory agencies. Yep, I can see how the government has no business using that information! If you really want to eliminate any and all government intrusion into your life, there are two simple options. The first one is to kill yourself (Then, even if they intrude, you won't care, you'll be dead!) or, you can move to some desolate wasteland and live off your own wits. I just can't understand this innate paranoia you people seem to associate with the government collecting information. Do *I* like it? I really wouldn't care, as long as they stayt within the bounds of the law, at least for the stuff they do in the open

For you see, what they do out of the open is very very bad. So bad, that if I were to tell you, they'd kill me. Hey, maybe I should submit a story on that... 'Government will kill me if I talk', from the 'just-because-youre-paranoid-dont-mean-theyre-not- after-you dept'! Sure, yeah. I'll get working on writing that. This turned out being a little longer than I'd though. Oh well. Settle down, this won't harm you in the least. And if it does, you probably had it coming.

Why not? (2)

Jelerial (157603) | about 13 years ago | (#293596)

With the current economy turning down, this could be a chance for some companies to make a little cash. I know, most of you are going to immediately say 'but we want to keep our privacy!" well, then do so! All the information that is being sold, is what you've freely provided. Someone else just had the sense to combine it together. For example, they paid the 15 dollar fee to the FBI to get general information on any person, then bought marketing data from the numerous dot.coms, and in turn, added it into a large MS SQL database, and ran a few lines, packaged it togehter, and went to look for a buyer.

The Federal Government is the ideal buyer of this information. How better to devide up voting districts, set welfare limits, and keep a low level track of every citizen. If you don't particularly care for it, you can stop filling in the information you provide to get free goodies, don't sign up for givaways, never slide your visa card, etc. You provide the information willingly, what's wrong with someone else collecting it, and making a nice profit? You'd love it, if the governemtn was shelling out 30 million dollars to you! Jelerial

Re:I see no problem with it really. (1)

Kryptonomic (161792) | about 13 years ago | (#293603)

It has a moral outloook, and if your morals are different you are screwed.

You are assuming that there are no moral problems with corporations' single-minded drive to make money. Corporations do have a moral agenda: to make us consume more, which with our finite natural resources is in itself a very questionable agenda.

If policing were private, that would not have happened.

You mean things would be better like in the private prisons? Horrific abuses of power and inhuman treatment of the inmates to reduce the operating costs.

What do you think about Radioshack now? (1)

M3shuggah (162909) | about 13 years ago | (#293604)

I've always wondered why they ask you for your name and address whenever you go in to buy a pack of batteries. I'm sure Radioshack has a nice profile on the average slashdotter. Now, you can expect more than just junk mail.

Re:Libertarian babble? (1)

dada21 (163177) | about 13 years ago | (#293605)

Why are they a problem? Not because of their actions necessarily. If they were small companies that no one listened to or agreed with, they would not be scary. They are scary because the majority of americans ARE agreeing with them by purchasing their products. That is scary. I haven't bought a CD since the whole napster and streaming fiasco started (except for a few used CD's). I can't break my movie habit, but I have been seeing more small run artsy flicks lately. Both are organizations that we the public can control by saying no to their products. How can you say no to what the government is doing? At this point, you can't. Us Libertarians want to shrink government down to what they are allowed to do based on the constitution. I believe, as a Libertarian, that the government really has no right to this data, and number two, to even spend the money on collecting the data.

Re:I see no problem with it really. (1)

dada21 (163177) | about 13 years ago | (#293606)

If policing was done a la the Libertarian stance, the cops wouldn't be harassing blacks like they do now. The drug war would be over, and the only thing cops would be doing is watch for real criminals. The guy that was shot was unarmed, and in a privatized (not necessarily the Libertarian way) police force, the corporations would hesitate to shoot first because of legal ramifications. There are numerous ways to control a possible criminal - tear gas, tasers, etc. The reason the cops use guns? Permanent subjugation.

Libertarian babble? (4)

dada21 (163177) | about 13 years ago | (#293607)

I'm a Libertarian (card carrying) and I don't see how this is a problem. It is only a problem that the government has the data, I could care less if a corporation has it. If they do, its my own damn fault. If the government has it, then its as good as permanent. But I try very hard to keep my personal information out of corporate hands. I don't use my health insurance for anything but dire emergencies, pay cash for as much as possible, and am very careful to opt-out of everything I have been put on. Sure, once you're on a list, you're probably there for life, but what bad is it doing? I have to admit, almost every list I am on I was put there because I allowed it. How many people read the fine print when they put their names down? Like that 10% savings at the grocery store when you use your frequent shopper's card? Ever think where that data goes? I don't even have a card, but I always ask the person behind me in line for theirs, and they always give it to me. Big corporations aren't the scare, its the government that's the scare. And the government bought this list because we allowed them to. End high taxes, and I think you'll end government programs that are allowed to purchase this information. Opt-out of all you can, and stop putting your real name on the dotted line just to save 5% or get something for nothing. My magazine subscriptions don't come in my real name either :)

i'm gonna get flamed for this one... (1)

b0r1s (170449) | about 13 years ago | (#293608)

I dont understand what the huge issue is. I personally dont encrypt anything. I dont worry about it. I dont worry about people who know what porn sites I go to, or what news sites I read. I dont care that someone tracks what computer parts I buy online, or what my typical path of bored websurfing is. I dont have anything to hide. If the government cares what sites I look at, why is that supposed to bother me? Let them buy the data, let them skim through it. Let them realize I'm harmless and move on. If they find one valuable clue in this that someone is doing something illegal, then I feel it was money well spent. The rest of us have nothing to worry about.

Re:Listen buddy (1)

b0r1s (170449) | about 13 years ago | (#293610)

define importance? if you were really important, everyone would already know everything about you. just because you're so damn convinced of your own importance doesnt make it true.

Recommended reading (1)

John Jorsett (171560) | about 13 years ago | (#293612)

If you're serious about protecting your privacy, I recommend the book, "How to Be Invisible : A Step-By-Step Guide to Protecting Your Assets, Your Identity, and Your Life" by J. J. Luna. You may or may not want to implement everything he describes, but it's good to know how to go about it if you want to. This isn't one of those books about how to manufacture a new identity, but rather how to keep private whatever you think should be private.

Re:Why not? (2)

John Jorsett (171560) | about 13 years ago | (#293614)

never slide your visa card

Speaking of which, in the U.S., American Express is selling 'credit cards' thru 7-11 (a convenience store chain). You prepay the amount you want and receive a card with that much value. No ties to your identity - you toss the card when you're done with it. If you want the convenience of a credit card but the confidentiality of cash, this looks like a way to do it.

Re:One Big Fat Difference (1)

Golias (176380) | about 13 years ago | (#293623)

Give that man a cigar!

You caught the flaw in the editors logic. Thank you.

(You also explained it a little faster than me... my response was about 20 posts later than yours, even though started entering my answer just after the fp'ers.)

Somebody mod this guy up.

Pshaw (2)

Golias (176380) | about 13 years ago | (#293627)

Things like this are why I just don't understand the typical Libertarian babble that government data collection is bad, but corporations should be allowed to collect and sell whatever data they want.

The Libertarian objection here is that the FBI is buying the data. Collect or buy, it is still the government action that one would be objecting to.

Also, this is aggregate data, meaning that nobody is identified, so who gives a flying fuck? Post it on a public website for all I care. It's just a bunch of statistics. Sheesh!

Re:Libertarian answers (2)

Golias (176380) | about 13 years ago | (#293628)

People that "didn't need no stink'in governement" are not libertarians, they are anarchists.

Libertarians just want a small government that does not trample on our rights.

I wish more people understood this subtle (but very important) difference.

conspiracy (1)

zoftie (195518) | about 13 years ago | (#293645)

I would be charged based on data that is sold to
NSA by corporation for ananlysis on population
wide scan? WTF.
Canada was caught collecting data on all of its
citizens into one huge database. It is illegal by
canadian laws. They said that they have destroyed
it. Yeah right. Its like saying oh we just made
this a-bomb and we will forget that we even made it.

Truth is popluation is growing, so there is more
chances for very bad people to be out there.
Governments know that they want to tie everyone
into one knot and rule - its easier to police a
state with strong arm, then reason with state.
Presently there is a struggle by governments
to tie everybody into that big knot, so they can
black mail anybody, thus spending less money on
policing, thus be more popular with general
populus.

also (1)

zoftie (195518) | about 13 years ago | (#293646)

this prompts the death of the web. If your data
is so freely circulated over the net, including
any authentication or indentification information,
whats to stop lazy government workers taking
shortcuts doing misjustice and getting away with
it? Things like where few FBI officers that rack
up huge bills trying to catch elusive drug
trafficer. Now they just have to snoop few passwords
do plant of evidence on few of people's accounts,
and haul innocent person's ass into jail for life
or even execution, so that they will not be
caught for misappropriation of funds.
That is why I don't trust *anybody*. My computer
is as secure as a fortress - sufficently secure.
I do not use webmail services, except one hosted directly on my machine and used over ssl-128 bit.
Education of general computing populus about
encryption methods available today, is paradyne
of computer educated , encryption enlightened.

It was nice living in free county. Where can get the same again?

Government shmuvernment (1)

yoink! (196362) | about 13 years ago | (#293649)

I think the real issue here is just how ambiguous the governmnet / corporation line has become. Governments are no longer "for the people by the people" but "for the people to buy the people." It is this disparity which should concern most people. Interests, at least the primary ones, are solely control and profit, and not health, education, morals, etc. We find our humanity erroded on a daily basis, not because we want it too, but because (myself included) we're really too lazy to get informed and actually think about it. That's why there is so much support for entertainment. It is a pacifier. What you think The Simpsons is about? (Hint: What Maggie sucks on is paramount to the great cornerstone of modern civilization - yes the television. D'OH!).


yoink

Re:Accurate data ? (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | about 13 years ago | (#293652)

mod this guy up....this will happen in some way shape or form if this stupidity continues....

Jaysyn

Re:I see no problem with it really. (3)

abe ferlman (205607) | about 13 years ago | (#293656)

Ok, let's play the "pretend this guy isn't really a troll" game.

Corporations have an innocent and noble aim, to make money.

There are two things wrong with this. Let's unpack some assumptions, shall we?

1. Corporations do not have 'aims'. Corporations, legal fictions notwithstanding, are not people- they are the tools of people. Specifically, corporations are a legal shield from liability for the actions of the capital of the people who control the company, as well as the control of the capital others invest in the company (making it functionally theirs).
2. To the extent that we can imagine corporations to have aims, they are not noble. Corporations want to make money, but the desire to make money is not noble in itself- in fact, the desire of the individuals who make a living by making themselves dependent on these corporations often find that their personal ethics are in conflict with the "noble" moneymaking aim of the corporation, so they engage in activity that they would never engage in for their own sake for fear of losing their jobs. Ask any salesperson, any pr person.

They have no interest in advancing political agendas or using that information to harm people.

I'll agree with this statement, except to the extent that corporations *do* have an interest in politics and hurting people when their bottom line is in some way affected by it. Which is pretty much all of the time. See the debate over campaign financing, see the DMCA, see the Sonny Bono copyright extensions, EPA regulation of carbon dioxide emissions, paint company defenses of the safety of lead paint back when Gale Norton was a lobbyist for them, etc, etc.

in short, we should live in a society of limited government. If the functions that government presently executes, such as defense of the realm and policing the streets, were carried out by private corporations at the behest of out citizens, everything would be much fairer. Look at the rioting in Cincinati. If policing were private, that would not have happened.

1. How do you figure? I'd say your assertion could use some support.
2. Do you suppose that if the government contracts out prisons, that putting more people in prison will be profitable? Is making a profit still noble then? Will the invisible hand of the economy find an ideal economic point between the supply of prison labor and the demand of the few consumers outside of prison? Is this better than our 'unlimited government?'
3. If the most cost-effective way to maintain order is to strip citizens of their rights and kill the troublemakers, do you suppose that the nobility of the profit motive will make it ok for corporations to protect their profits? What could be more noble than making an honest buck and keeping the cycle of consumerism going so that the only thing that makes our society work is capital?

Just wondering,
Bryguy

Re:Well... (2)

agentZ (210674) | about 13 years ago | (#293658)

Wouldn't it be cooler to change what's in there? To make your entry read, "Joe Hacker, 123 Dumb Fed Dr., Anytown, USA"? What about changing the entry of your neighborhood to read, "Wanted sex offender."

Why disable when you can subvert...

But it's legal (2)

agentZ (210674) | about 13 years ago | (#293659)

Here's the thing. I'm a very serious privacy advocate, but what the FBI is doing is, in fact, perfectly legal.

Yes, the law says that government agencies cannot gather information on American citizens more than necessary for the agency to do their job. There are, however, several exceptions to the law. Most are for intelligence gathering operations (which the FBI conducts), as well as law enforcement investigations. (Yes, this is exactly the same reason why the FBI can redact material that's been FOIA'ed. They're allowed to restrict giving away that information too.)

So while you may think what they're doing is unethical, if they're are gathering this information as part of a law enforcement investigation (i.e trying to locate a particular suspect or are find the person who committed a specific crime), they are perfectly within the law.

So stop whining and get the law changed...

Re:Accurate data ? (2)

agentZ (210674) | about 13 years ago | (#293660)

It could happen just like this:

WASHINGTON DC -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced today that it mistakenly identified almost 18,000 Americans as convicted sex offenders on a DVD-ROM distributed in compliance with Sex Offender Information Act (SOIA). The DVD-ROMs were distributed to approximately 200,000 law enforcement, government, and community organizations and list over 80,000 Americans the FBI claimed were convicted sex offenders. FBI Director Ben Bitdiddle announced the mistake during a press conference, saying that he "deeply regretted the error," and that the FBI would work to discuss compensation for the affected people.

The announcement comes ten days after the FBI admitted that it had received over 4,500 complaints from people listed on the DVD-ROM who claimed they were not convicted sex offenders. Of these, over 800 people also claimed that they had been the victim of some form of retaliation, such as hate speech, vandalism, or arson. The FBI admitted today that it incorrectly identified 17,842 Americans as sex offenders on the DVD-ROM.

The FBI DVD-ROM, entitled "Sex Offenders in the USA 2004," was released on June 1st of this year, and contains the names, addresses, phone numbers, and criminal histories of 87,521 Americans who were allegedly convicted sex offenders. While all of the criminal histories on the DVD-ROM are in fact criminal histories of convicted sex offenders, the names and personal information that go along with them do not necessarily correspond.

The FBI has promised to publish a new disc, entitled "Sex Offenders in the USA 2004, Version 1.1," within the end the month, along with an letter of explanation and apology. The original DVD-ROM was published after parents groups and activists bombarded the bureau beginning in February with demands for sex offender information. Citing the 2002 abduction, rape, and murder of April O'Neil, a seven year old girl from Backwoods, Indiana by a convicted rapist, they lobbied Congress continually until it passed the SOIA on March 15th. The National Coalition for a Safer Today (NCST), the leading organization in the fight to get the SOIA passed, had no comment on today's FBI annoucement. The SOIA mandates all law enforcement agencies publish the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all convicted sex offenders living in the United States.

Suspicion about the FBI DVD-ROM was raised after Jonathan Random, a 31 year old resident of Cleveland, Ohio, was shot to death outside his house by angry neighbors on June 18th. Random, who had never been convicted of any crime, had signed up to coach a youth baseball team two days earlier. League official Alice Ackerson found Random's name on the FBI DVD-ROM, and alerted Bob Bumblebum of the NCST. One of random's neighbors, who is only being identified as "Eve" and is currently awaiting trial for the shooting of Random, learned of Random's listing on the FBI DVD-ROM from NCST and admitted that the listing was the reason for her involvement in the shooting.

The mistake on the FBI DVD-ROM was discovered by Alyssa P. Hacker, an undercover FBI agent working out of the Washington DC headquarters. The criminal division of the FBI provided the criminal histories and the corresponding social security numbers of sex offenders that went on the DVD-ROM. The names, addresses, and phone numbers were provided by InfoTelSeek, a private company that routinely researches and provides such information for the government. The courier who delivered the information to InfoTelSeek inadvertently switched one of the disks listing sex offenders with a disk containing a list of people being run through InfoTelSeek for "routine purposes." The FBI refused to disclose exactly why these people were being examined.

As an example of the mistakes made, Random, who has no criminal record, was listed on the FBI DVD-ROM as having the criminal record of Jed Plumber. Plumber, now 28, has been convicted of two counts of rape, the second offense being the rape of a seven year old boy that he was coaching on a youth basketball team. Plumber spent six years in a federal prison before being released on parole. Plumber actually resides at 52 West King Street in Phoenix, Arizona, according to InfoTelSeek, which also added that his phone number is 602-267-1201.

check this: (1)

Cardhore (216574) | about 13 years ago | (#293666)

We could write a software daemon (similar to Gnutella/freenet) that allows us to chain IP ports of nodes together in order to hide who is sending what to whom. For example, if I wanted to send an e-mail that were unencrypted to someone, but I wanted to hide what machine I were using, I could use this system to connect the mail daemon through about six machines who'd be running the system that would pass the e-mail through each one (preferrably encrypted as well). "Portster" or some other trendy name could be used :) (When you run the daemon, it allows others who are running it to connect through your machine to additional machines, ad infinum, until you've chaned enough ports together.)

I wrote that earlier. What if we implemented this? Then tracking data like these would be much harder

Re:i'm gonna get flamed for this one... (1)

praedor (218403) | about 13 years ago | (#293667)

Get off it. I am SOOOOO tired of the "guv'mnt spying on everyone - evil guv'mnt". Shit, the "guv'mnt" is made up of regular ole people, like your cousin, your neighbor, your best friend's father or mother. All evil people by association.

Sure, I do not want to be spied upon by anyone, but the guv'mnt has all my vitals already since I have a security clearance. What I want to know is why is it that you all always and ALMOST exclusively hate the guv'mnt (your neighbors, friend's, cousins, etc) doing anything but do not shit all over corporations for doing the same stuff. Corporations are, BY FAR, the most agregious violators of privacy and the biggest threat, not the "guv'mnt". Sure, limit guv'mnt info collection on people to that required for proper law enforcement (with valid court order) or properly providing services, but REALLY put the crimp on nefarious corporate privacy desecration too. THAT is the big problem.

Libertarian babble? (2)

SeraphtheSilver (226793) | about 13 years ago | (#293672)

It's rather simple why libertarians think the way we do: Governments can use force to collect the information they want and do what they want with it, but any corporation that has information on you has it solely because you consented, either tacitly or explicitly, to give it to them.

It's illegal not to fill out the census. Meaning, you can go to jail, or be given a fine, or whatnot. You can't get a job without a SIN number, because if you do, the government will fine your employer and you.

On the other hand, it's perfectly all right not to use hotmail or any other service that requires you to fill out demographic information forms. It's perfectly all right to change your browser so that it doesn't accept cookies.

Of course, the day the laws says that you _have_ to accept cookies on your browser or else you'll go to jail, then we'll be against that too.

-Seraph

Re:This would make a lot of sense.. (2)

Slashdot Cruiser (227609) | about 13 years ago | (#293674)

Actually, I hate going to Qwik Lube. The guys there have cold hands *shiver* and they don't always wash up between cars *gag*. :)

Information collection is not always bad (3)

Slashdot Cruiser (227609) | about 13 years ago | (#293675)

*sigh*

My garage keeps a record of every oil change, tire rotation, and filter change I've had with them. When I go too long without regular maintenance, a computer program automatically sends me a letter to tell me it's time to come in.

"Oh, horrors! But your maintenance history is private. It's no body else's business what kind of oil you have in you."

Bleah. This is the 21st century. Life is much more complex. Each of us has literally hundreds of important dates and events to keep track of. Sure, I could stick a reminder note in my Palm, but why use up the memory when Quik Lube is so willing to use their own?

I like those little reminder notes. I don't mind sacrificing a little privacy if it keeps me from throwing a rod on I-10 during rush hour.

"But," you say, "there's a big difference between oil changes and some big evil corporation knowing what milk I buy!"

*snicker* See how stupid that sounds?

Sure, they have your personal information. What keeps it from being evil is the simple fact that most personal information is incredibly mundane and useless to anyone but me, just like my oil changes.

Face it -- to the rest of the world, the big evil government, and the big evil corporations, YOU ARE BORING. You are mere bytes in a database somewhere and the only interesting aspect of your existence is the question of where to store the backup tapes.

Re:I see no problem with it really. (1)

bdlinux13 (232862) | about 13 years ago | (#293679)

Do you think the government is 100% racist FREE? What about afirmative action? Isn't that racist? Racial profiling... isn't that racist too? Racism is everywhere dude no matter if you are white or black, or whatever.. you have to live with it.

Re:I see no problem with it really. (2)

Magnus Pym (237274) | about 13 years ago | (#293681)

> Corporations have a record of non-abuse, and
> are owned by the people. The government does
> not and is not.

Ha ha ha ha ha! Dude, I really fell for that one! I didn't realize your article was satire until I read that line!

Uhh.. it was satire, wasn't it?

Magnus.

Re:I see no problem with it really. (1)

Anthony Boyd (242971) | about 13 years ago | (#293682)

bdlinux13, you make your post as if to argue with the parent post. However, you've just agreed. His point was that a private police force would still have racism problems, and your counter, that "racism is everywhere dude" only confirms the point: a private police force would be just as miserably bad as a government police force.

Re:Well... (1)

RareHeintz (244414) | about 13 years ago | (#293683)

Most of them are probably backed up - you'd have to physically destroy the backup tapes, too.

OK,
- B
--

WTF? (2)

RareHeintz (244414) | about 13 years ago | (#293686)

I mean WTF!?! Did someone go and abolish the Fourth Amendment while I was napping? Do Reno, Ashcroft, et al think it's not an unreasonable search and seizure if they pay someone else to do it? And why isn't there legislation about corporate abuses of privacy in this country? Why is it that if I collect lots of personal data about someone, it's stalking, but if a company does it to tens of millions of people, it's a revenue stream?

Anyone know of an unclaimed island in international waters somewhere? It's time for Sealand II...

OK,
- B
--

Re:WTF? (2)

RareHeintz (244414) | about 13 years ago | (#293687)

Perhaps you're missing the fundamental issue: How is the government's purchase of this information from corporations any better than them simply going out and getting it themselves? You completely ignore the point.

I don't care how they get it, if they go about gathering information about people not suspected of any crime, that represents an unreasonable search and seizure.

OK,
- B
--

Re:i'm gonna get flamed for this one... (2)

RareHeintz (244414) | about 13 years ago | (#293688)

First off, fuck you. I am pissed about corporations gathering information on me, and would like to see legislation to prevent them from doing so. Just because in one post I mentioned government privacy violations without mentioning corporate ones, you seem to assume that I'm one of those laissez-faire airheads. Well, go pigeonhole someone else, dipshit.

And secondly, even if the government violates citizens' privacy less frequently or vigorously than corporations do (and I'm not at all convinced of that), the government has tools at its disposal like imprisonment and the legal ability to deal death. And if you don't think they invade the privacy of nonconformists with the intent of imprisoning them, blackmailing them, or killing them outright, I suggest you look into the stories of Sacco and Vanzetti, Martin Luther King, Jr., and anyone blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

I mean, just because you want to let the government crawl up your ass with a microscope to get a security clearance is no reason the rest of us have to like it...

- B
--

Re:i'm gonna get flamed for this one... (4)

RareHeintz (244414) | about 13 years ago | (#293693)

The problem is that governments - ours (that is, the U.S. gov't) too - have a nasty habit of not going after criminals exclusively, but of going after political dissenters, subversives, agitators from racial, gender, and economic underclasses, religious minorities, and lots of other people exercising their consciences.

That is why the Fourth Amendment exists, and why your ignorant and blithely submissive attitude about the government spying on anyone and everyone brings us that much closer to living in a place where dissent and nonconformism are punished for their own sake.

OK,
- B
--

For your flaming, a "pure" libertarian response. (1)

Robert Hutchinson (266739) | about 13 years ago | (#293695)

1) The government is using force to obtain this data. Taxes are paying for these purchases, and taxes are theft.

2) The (federal, at least) government is collecting this information in order to help them in doing things which, far more often than not, they are not authorized to do.

I still can't find the opt-out checkbox on this 1040 ...

Robert Hutchinson

Re:So what? (1)

Robert Hutchinson (266739) | about 13 years ago | (#293696)

[T]he majority of the information the corps have on us is our buying capacity, what we like in ads and television. This isn't a terrible invasion of privacy, and it's not the beginning of the Thought Police, this is just the government's attept to......

I really don't know why they would want this information.

Can you say "drug profiling"?

"Look at how many straws this guy bought last year, Johnson. Big ol' cokehead. Seize his bank account."

Robert Hutchinson

Data aggregration... (2)

dasmegabyte (267018) | about 13 years ago | (#293698)

Alright, the government knows about me. I'm hardly shaking in my boots, because the information that they can get privately is no more verbose than what they could get already by running a credit check and talking to my mom. These would be their first two courses of action if they ever suspected me of pulling anything funny. Of course, nobody would begrudge the government the ability to phone up somebody's friends, their bank or their employer in the case of something prurious -- it's this ability which helps protect us from the truly troublesome elements. So why do we have such a huge problem if they're grabbing simple info about us before hand?

Simple. We're afraid of being profiled. If the government makes a list of angry loners, most of us would be on it, especially the goatse.cx kids. The things that we prize -- free software, free speech, high technology, geeky knowlege -- are red light topics. High school shooters play D&D and video games. Terrorists support "libertarian" ideals.

So I don't feel we should attack the government's right to collect information. I feel we should attack the use of profiling of any kind. There is too much basis and therefore prejudice in law; that's why unarmed black men get shot and why goth teenagers are roped into sensitivity training. Forget Gattaca...the government doesn't need DNA to alienate us. And if we don't halt this propensity, we'll suddenly find our rights to support fringe subjects slipping out from under us.

secret.... agent man (2)

deran9ed (300694) | about 13 years ago | (#293699)

If someone can't see the problem with a private sector group secretly selling personal information they've got issues.

However to be fair, the FBI wouldn't neccessarily need to use the private sector to gather information, as they could just check out DMV records, credit records, etc., with or without a warrant.

Oh sure cry up a storm, they MUST have a warrant to get these records, but you have to understand FBI agents, are people with the same resources without as anyone else. e.g. FBI agent calls his ex classmate who works at DMV, "hey do my a favor, and get me this information." shit happens.

So I wouldn't cry up a storm thinking the spooks are turning to private sector companies for information as a standalone method. I do however have issues with the company giving the information away, the FBI is nothing more than an agency nothing more, sure they have power, but if people took the initiative to learn a smidgeon of law, you would know the FBI isn't all that. In fact fuck em

Now the CIA... (whoa) ;)

Ghost in the Shell [antioffline.com]

Re:Well... (1)

cavemanf16 (303184) | about 13 years ago | (#293709)

I seem to recall hearing on the news years ago that the CoS has a HUGE database on tapes of everyone (even dead people) that they 'pray' for in their huge temple. Or maybe that was the Mormons, I can't really remember.

Re:i'm gonna get flamed for this one... (1)

cavemanf16 (303184) | about 13 years ago | (#293710)

Yep, another typical flamebait. When you get some of his credit card numbers, can you forward to me so that I can sell them to the mob, and the feds, and buy a bunch of illegal things with the money we steal from him? Not that I want to ruin his life, but... oh hell, let's ruin his life!

Re:Bastards! (1)

cavemanf16 (303184) | about 13 years ago | (#293711)

On another note...

A friend of mine met a homeless man at a shelter not too long ago. The homeless man was very excited that day because he found out he had finally gotten a job interview. It was a job that paid $10 and hour plus commission! It was a telemarketer firm.

I find myself being slightly kinder to telemarketers these days, yet more no more willing to buy what they're selling. I tried to work out a deal with one, but since I didn't fit in her script, she ended up hanging up on me.

Point is, people gotta make a living, and may not be proud of what they're doing right now, but you gotta start somewhere. Others could care less what puts $100,000 in their pocket every year in a legal way. So do realize that money takes precedence over values in this world far too often. It does sadden my soul.

Re:accuracy (1)

cavemanf16 (303184) | about 13 years ago | (#293712)

I've heard they're wildly innacurrate, or at least impossible to deal with. That's why I joined a Credit Union, and I'm not going back to a bank again.

Re:Why not? (1)

cavemanf16 (303184) | about 13 years ago | (#293713)

If you don't particularly care for it, you can stop filling in the information you provide to get free goodies, don't sign up for givaways, never slide your visa card, etc.

Good luck building credit for buying a house, a car, student loans for your kids, etc. You can't do so just paying cash up front all the time.

You provide the information willingly, what's wrong with someone else collecting it, and making a nice profit?

So if I give my info to my mortgage company, who then sends it to their credit card division, who then sells that to a bunch of telemarketers, who then call me non-stop; is that justified? Because that's how it works my friend.

Just because something is already happening and not illegal, doesn't mean that it's ok, or the right thing to do. That also means that current laws may be outdated, not applicable, or need improvement.

That's why I oppose the DMCA (copyright law as it is written now benefits big corp's, not the little guy as it was intended to do originally), and am for more restrictions on data collection of my own private info (because I have no control over it anymore, just the big all-powerful corps are).

Re:A request: (1)

r_j_prahad (309298) | about 13 years ago | (#293715)

Would Slashdot refrain from posting stories that are widespread in the popular media? The story was also in today's Wall Street Journal.

So who reads the original article anyway? Certainly not most of the people who post here.

Great, now we can worry about proliferation. (1)

Tsar cr0bar (310803) | about 13 years ago | (#293716)

Big Company aggregates personal data. Big Company sells data to government. Data is stolen from said government by spies working for an Evil Communist Power. Evil Communist Power uses knowledge of consumer purchase habits to destroy economy of aforementioned nation in which said Big Company resides. Rinse, repeat.

Checks and Balances (1)

wyopittsa (310894) | about 13 years ago | (#293717)

Sometimes I think the sort of paranoia people exhibit about this sort of thing is funny. But then I remember that sort of paranoia is what makes this country great. There's a reason the President can't just do something without getting it past Congress and making sure the Supreme Court doesn't shoot it down. And there's a reason that Congress can't just do something without getting past the other two branches. This country was set up to be paraniod. Even the founding fathers were paranoid that one branch would be too powerful, so they gave the other two branches power to disallow anything the other branch may try. And in that same spirit, the citizens of this country are paranoid. We don't want things to happen quickly and efficiently in DC. As much as we bitch about those lazy SOBs in DC not doing anything, that's really how we want it. And that's the way it should be. Whenever a privacy story like this concerning the government comes out, there is a huge uproar and this leads to hearings and reports and all kinds of things being done. I think this is sort of the American way of guaranteeing that nothing gets too extreme. Thoughts?

Re:Great, now we can worry about proliferation. (2)

snoop_chili_dog (314897) | about 13 years ago | (#293720)

Has anyone actually read the article? They are getting their info mainly from credit bureaus and whatnot. This isn't exactly stuff that government couldn't find out about. This just makes it quicker for them. I like my privacy, but I know that there are somethings that I can't keep other people from finding out. My address. My phone number.

I think that a person (1)

CrackElf (318113) | about 13 years ago | (#293722)

should be able to own their own information. I mean, these companies are making big bucks off of me. And i don't see one cent of it. I might not mind entering into a contract with a company, if I was paid, say, 3 for every dollar that they made. I think that if the big corps can pull the intellectual property bs, we should be able to, at the very least, own our own data.

I see no problem with it really. (4)

libertarienne (325414) | about 13 years ago | (#293728)

I know that the author of this piece is clearly biased against the libertarian party, but as an active member of it myself let me set him straight on a few things.

Firstly, there is nothing wrong with corporations collecting data about people. Corporations have an innocent and noble aim, to make money. They have no interest in advancing political agendas or using that information to harm people. They use data to benefit people - through focused marketing. With information, they can give us the products we want.

Secodndly, the government is completely different from this. It exists to advance a political agenda and control every detail of our lives. It has a moral outloook, and if your morals are different you are screwed.

In short, we should live in a society of limited government. If the functions that government presently executes, such as defense of the realm and policing the streets, were carried out by private corporations at the behest of out citizens, everything would be much fairer. Look at the rioting in Cincinati. If policing were private, that would not have happened.

Data being available publicvally is good, as long as it is not abused. Corporations have a record of non-abuse, and are owned by the people. The government does not and is not. That is all we need to know.

Unless you have something to hide (1)

Invisible Agent (412805) | about 13 years ago | (#293732)

I don't know if you meant this as a troll. If not, my mind boggles that someone could still believe the premise that you shouldn't worry about your privacy if you have nothing to hide, and that governmental intrusion in your life only harms you if "you had it coming".

This is the first step toward fascim. A dog chained to a tree feels completely free until he tries to go one step past the chain's limits. The previous poster will have a rude awakening the first time he tries to take that next step.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Invisible Agent

So where is this information going? (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | about 13 years ago | (#293735)

Has anyone found any information about what this information is and why the government is interested in it?

IANAL, but if this information had any law enforcement value, couldn't the govenment simply get it for free through the court system?

I suspect that if any of you actually saw the information the government is buying, you wouldn't even be interested in it.

Found em (1)

sllort (442574) | about 13 years ago | (#293739)

Check out Choicepoint's government web site [cpgov.com].

Their privacy policy [google.com] appears to be slash dotted (link is to google's cache of it).

ChoicePoint obtains personally - identifiable information only from sources known to us to be reputable. These sources may include courts, public record repositories and consumer reporting agencies. ChoicePoint places high priority on the reliability of its information sources. In fact, the Company carefully reviews its sources' information practices, and does not utilize sources that violate acceptable collection practices or that fail to provide accurate, complete and timely information.

It's great that they're so considerate, huh?
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