Big Brother's Little Helpers: How Choicepoint & Other Commercial Data Brokers Collect, Process, and Package Your Data

Privacy and Security

Article Snapshot


Chris Hoofnagle


North Carolina Journal of International Law & Commercial Regulation, Vol. 29, pg. 595, 2004


This paper describes how firms collect information for background checks.

Policy Relevance

New safeguards are needed to control and limit how the government uses information collected by private firms.

Main Points

  • Private firms including ChoicePoint, LexisNexis, and Dun & Bradstreet collect information about individuals that is widely used by government agencies.

  • Information about foreign nationals as well as U.S. citizens is systematically collected.

  • Police officers and other officials with access to this information can misuse it.

  • Few audits or safeguards are in place to restrict the collection of information or to monitor how it is used. The Fourth Amendment, the Privacy Act, and other laws do not always apply.

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