Society

This Company Is Tracking Your Activities And Purchases

| by Nik Bonopartis
A graphic illustration showing data represented as binary codeA graphic illustration showing data represented as binary code

Did you forget about that speeding ticket you got eight years ago?

Interactive Data Intelligence didn't. Neither did it forget your last three addresses, your last five phone numbers, the deed to the vacation cabin your uncle left you in his will, the make and model of your car, the medical condition you Googled about last year, and the fact that you like to order pizza with pepperoni and a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola during Monday Night Football.

The "data fusion" company combines public databases with their private counterparts, information gleaned from marketers, behavioral patterns based on your time spent online, even snapshots taken from a fleet of vehicles equipped with automatic license plate readers.

That data, which the company offers to private investigators, credit collectors, law firms and the government -- among other customers -- is used to form profiles on every adult in the U.S., according to a report in Bloomberg.

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While similar databases exist, and those databases have inspired fear about privacy violations, the unprecedented wedding of "conventional data" -- information available in databases like Accurint and LexisNexis -- and consumer and behavioral data has allowed IDI to create unprecedented "portraits" of individuals. Those portraits can be used to predict behavior, right on down to where you're likely to be on a certain day and what kind of food you like to order.

“The cloud never forgets, and imperfect pictures of you composed from your data profile are carefully filled in over time,” Roger Kay, president of consulting firm Endpoint Technologies Associates, told Bloomberg. “We’re like bugs in amber, completely trapped in the web of our own data.”

As private investigator Steve Rambam puts it, you can't escape the all-seeing eye.

“You may not know what you do on a regular basis, but I know,” said Rambam, host of "Nowhere to Hide" on the Investigation Discovery channel. “I know it’s Thursday, you haven’t eaten Chinese food in two weeks, and I know you’re due.”

So go ahead, order that lo mein -- you might want to add a side order of fried wontons and spring rolls, like you did a few weeks ago.

IDI, which was bankrolled by pharmaceutical billionaire Phillip Frost and headed by Equifax and NexisLexis veteran Derek Dubner, has been in business for only a year, according to Bloomberg. The company employs 200 people, reported revenue of $40 billion in the second quarter of 2016, and says thousands have already signed up for its services.

IDI's website touts its "massive data repository" and analytics that can build "comprehensive and insightful views of people, businesses, assets and their interrelationships."

While the company grows, so does its database. And unlike other databases, which form extensive profiles via things like purchasing habits and ownership history of cars and property, IDI can sweep everyone up in its net.

“We have data on that 21-year-old who’s living at home with mom and dad,” Dubner said.

Sources: Bloomberg, IDI / Photo credit: DARPA/Wikimedia Commons

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