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The Choicepoint Case

One of the fabulous breakthroughs of modern commerce and technology is the Personal Data Industry. This industry delves with data or information gathering which may cover to a greater extent amassing information and data about personal lives from one’s day-to-day activities. There are schemes and strategies being employed so as people will be interested to share and offer their personal information. Personal data industry tries to conjoin and match this information in order to gather much information they need about that person.

Indeed, today’s technology makes it easier to cross match this personal information with other information already gathered about certain individual so as to compile a full picture of his personal interests, consumer habits, and private lives. This information gathering scheme through the use of highly advanced technology is indeed helpful for businesses. Some might see targeted marketing based on such information as a positive progression and a good use of modern technology (Hayes).

Corollary to the advantage given to such industries, multifarious abuses of such a wealth of information, right across the private and public sectors, have arisen. While personal data industry is not per se illegal as no law explicitly prohibits it, the regulations set up by the laws have been so weak to prevent the abuses. Personal information may not be used for a lawful purpose but may be used to malign or destroy a person, or basically control his or her habits.

Such information may even cover those which are purely personal to the person that ought not to be divulged as the same would expose such person to extreme humiliation and besmirched reputation. The attack on Choicepoint as a Personal Data Industry is basically grounded on the individual rights for protection and privacy. This paper aims to discuss on the ethical implications brought about by the abuses and invasions in a Personal Data Industry. Determining the proper business ethics in delving with and solving the problem could lead to certain ramifications to the industry.

A proper business ethics shall be determined in order to promote the best welfare of the company. A action based on an ethical consideration can be arrived at by identifying the basic issues involving abuses in the personal data industry. Data protection serves to protect us from our person information being treated, used or applied in a harmful manner and in breach of the basic human right of privacy. However, it is important to note that everyone’s personal details may be potentially mistreated.

Given the current reliance placed on computerized information, mistreatment of personal information may result in the private individual suffering consequences such as the unjustified refusal of credit, housing, employment, or promotion. Personal information for background checks is of course essential for employers and criminal investigators. Businesses that have been able to use the Internet to quickly provide such information have grown tremendously over the past five years, as the events

of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent war on terror have put a premium on accurate identification of individuals in both the public and private sectors. Law enforcement, in particular, has found data brokers useful, as these private companies maintain and organize personal information on individuals in a manner that may not be legally available to government actors. The Privacy Act, for example, requires federal agencies to limit the amount of information on American citizens that these agencies maintain and disseminate.

Most data brokers sell data that they collect from public records (e. g. , driver’s license records, vehicle registration records, criminal records, voter registration records, property records, occupational licensing records) or from warranty cards, credit applications, etc. In addition, data brokers purchase so-called “credit headers” from credit reporting agencies. Information on a credit header generally includes a person’s Social Security number, address, phone numbers, and birth date.

While the release of certain information, such as data associated with a credit report, is subject to federal law, data brokers are largely free from state and federal regulation. Generally, companies or government agencies purchase from data brokers information about an individual – including his or her Social Security number – in order to conduct background checks or otherwise verify someone’s identity. The vast majority of these transactions are conducted via the Internet, rather than person-to-person.

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