Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t watching you. In fact, if you’re an adult in the United States, they are. Although most of us aren’t being physically observed all the time, the growth of the data-fusion industry means there’s now a profile for every adult in the country. In the right hands, companies can predict where you are, what you’ll do, where you’ll go, and what you’ll buy even before you know yourself, according to a report on Bloomberg. One of the largest data-fusion companies is IDI, based in Boca Raton, Florida. Subscriptions to its IDICore database service are limited to licensed private investigators.
So what’s in your profile (and mine)? Start with public records of present and past addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses; DMV records; photos of your cars, boats, motorcycles, and utility vehicles; tax records for personal and real property; arrest and criminal records and traffic violations; voter information and political registrations and donations; hunting, fishing, and other recreational licenses; business licenses, permits, taxes, and fees; and the names, addresses, and phone numbers of your neighbors.
You can add to all this the public data time-stamped photos of cars and their GPS locations captured with automatic license plate readers by private concerns. Next up for the data pile are consumer, purchasing, and behavioral data available from a wide variety of commercial and marketing information databases.
IDI even has its own data collection services, allamericansavings.com and samplesandsavings.com. These two coupon sites, run by IDI, collect behavioral and purchasing data when people register to access coupons. When a Bloomberg reporter signed up for one of the sites it asked if he suffered from several diseases and medical conditions, ostensibly to be able to provide appropriate coupons. However, you can pretty much count on it that any time you answer personal questions on websites, that information is likely headed for a commercial database and will end up in your profile.
It costs a great deal to set up sources for all that data, but once the information feeds are in place, data-fusion companies become essential tools for investigators and anyone else authorized to access profile data.
The profiles stored by data-fusion concerns aren’t open to the public. Access to the profiles is now the most important tool for the 35,000 licensed private investigators in the U.S.
IDI has combined information proactively, without waiting for requests from PIs. In order to access someone’s file, an investigator has to identify a legally permitted use for the information. While the Federal Trade Commission is responsible for investigators, the high volume of search requests effectively results in self-policing by the PIs themselves. What could go wrong with that?