Big Brother Goes Global

Assembling electronic dossiers on millions of people

Big Brother through a private company has extended its tentacles into Latin America.

ChoicePoint, Inc., a data-processing firm, is selling government data bases on residents of 10 Latin American nations to the U.S. government, allowing them to track immigrants entering or living in this country ChoicePoint is notorious for purging Black and Latino voters in Florida to help George W. Bush steal the 2000 elections. The Justice Department (DOJ) has signed a $67 million contract with ChoicePoint to provide the FBI, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies with access to ChoicePoint’s 13 billion files. The FBI paid ChoicePoint $8 million for dossiers on almost every adult living in the United States. The Atlanta-based firm, with a market value of $2.5 billion and 2002 revenues of $594 million brags that it has bought the records of residents of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina. Chris Hoofnagle, deputy counsel at the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), told the World, “This is a question of national sovereignty. Do these nations want another country to have such extensive personal data about their citizens?” In Mexico, ChoicePoint bought the country’s entire voter registry and sells the names, one at a time, to the U.S. government. ChoicePoint has purchased Colombia’s entire citizen ID database which the Bush administration can buy for $90 per name. “I don’t believe 31 million Colombians authorized that,” Nelson Remolina, a Colombian lawyer and privacy advocate, said. Hoofnagle pointed out that the 1974 Privacy Act forbids U.S. government agencies from collecting many categories of personal information. “It created an incentive to privatize dossier building, turning it over to private companies,” he said.

“Thirty years ago the FBI would have to follow you around to find this information. Now they download it from the ChoicePoint web site.”


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