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Senators Slam Firm For Online Background Check 196

Posted by Soulskill
from the please-defend-this-comment-you-posted-8-years-ago dept.
GovTechGuy writes "Social Intelligence Corp's online employment screening service, which preserves users' social media profiles and other data for use by potential employers, infringes on consumers' privacy and could be a violation of the law according to Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Al Franken (D-MN). The Senators wrote to Social Intelligence Corp on Monday demanding answers to a host of questions about the service and how it collects data."
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Senators Slam Firm For Online Background Check

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  • Shocking. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday September 19, 2011 @05:02PM (#37449562)

    Or, really not. That's why I have a Facebook account with a believable, but fake name. Good luck to all companies trying to find my social network presence. You get LinkedIn, and that's it. To any company that requires my social network information to hire me: No, you don't. And I'd rather not work for you, if you think you do.

    I'm really wondering where this is headed. Dual SN-profiles for the tech-savvy, single profiles for the rest? Mandatory ID check and real name requirements before signing up for a social network? I guess Google is halfway there, but quite frankly, if they ban my profile for not being a real name, I have little use for their social network.

    It looks like some of the more distopian Internet futures might be around the corner: especially those with a dark net, where a lot of communication is encrypted, private and only between vetted members of a group.

    • by HexaByte (817350)
      If they gather information from publicly accessible social networking sites, no problem. Just because too many retards are posting "I went out partying last nite and slipped a mickey in some hot girlz drink and F)*&*(d her all nite long! She woke up not knowing where she waz or what we did! WOO HOO!" doesn't mean we should ban potential employers from looking at there stupidity.

      Smarter people are doing like Neutron Cowboy, living under assumed IDs. Some of us just don't give a rat's arse about
      • by Fluffeh (1273756)

        I don't really quite know where to step in on this argument. I personally think that companies that do these sort of background checks are taking the wrong approach to human resource management, but I also can't really stand up for someone that posts utter dribble online then whines about not getting that professional job they want because they aren't professional..

        I would personally like to have to take neither side here. Companies shouldn't be doing this, and idiots should be bitter about getting what the

        • Re:Shocking. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Seumas (6865) on Monday September 19, 2011 @05:54PM (#37450256)

          You know, when my parents and grandparents were starting into the job market, they were "employees".

          Now we're "resources".

          That kind of says it all.

          • by Fluffeh (1273756)

            Yup, totally agree. There was once a time when everyone was encouraged to do the absolute best, to do things better than they were - and it that meant spending a few extra dollars/days/employees to get the job done, then it was done. Now we live in a "that's more than good enough" landscape where sub-par is considered above average.

            • Now we live in a "that's more than good enough" landscape where sub-par is considered above average.

              I'm not sure there was such a time, although it was certainly more common in certain cultures fifty years ago.

              Also, if you come in under par, aren't you above average?

              • Also, if you come in under par, aren't you above average?

                Yes, the saying seems backwards from its apparent literal meaning. From dictionary.com:

                Also, under par . Not up to the average, normal, or desired standard. For example, I am feeling below par today, but I'm sure I'll recover by tomorrow . This term employs par in the sense of "an average amount or quality," a usage dating from the late 1700s.

                It all goes to the passion shown by the leader. If there is none, then good enough to not be terminated becomes the goal. If there is passion to do as well as possible, and everyone is engaged, then the acceptable goal becomes to do as well as possible.

                I have worked for several of both types of leader, and led my own teams as the latter (have pride, do as well as possible), in the last twenty years.

          • by rossz (67331)

            A resource is printer paper and pens. It can be purchased in a retail store, or bought in large quantities from an office supplier. If you call the people who work for you "resources", you do not respect them as people. I do not wish to work for you because I am not a resource.

          • by bjwest (14070)

            Yeah, and people who bought things were customers, now we're consumers. The citizens of this country used to be human beings, now we're just another resource for corporations to exploit, whether it be to consume their crap Made in China, or fill the few positions they still find cheaper to keep here in the U.S.

            I fear within the next ten to twenty years, if things keep going the way they are now, the U.S. will be little more than a third world country being used by the multinationals for it's farmland and (

        • by Amouth (879122)

          personally i agree with you - as for the start of this story - i find it funny that they thing it should be a crime, ~1 year ago a friend used me as a reference for a Top Secret Clearance, the person from DHS came in with all my finances for several years including a rental i don't claim as one (not required to). She also questioned me about Facebook & LinkedIn (which i don't use). She was very curious about any online aliases i go by - and people who i talk to online.

          for them to say this should be a

          • by Nursie (632944)

            There's a difference between security clearance for working on state secrets, and a selection procedure to be an office monkey.

            In general we let state security services do things we don't let private individuals and businesses do.

          • by Ash Vince (602485) *

            personally i agree with you - as for the start of this story - i find it funny that they thing it should be a crime, ~1 year ago a friend used me as a reference for a Top Secret Clearance, the person from DHS came in with all my finances for several years including a rental i don't claim as one (not required to). She also questioned me about Facebook & LinkedIn (which i don't use). She was very curious about any online aliases i go by - and people who i talk to online.

            for them to say this should be a crime - they need to look close at them selves..

            Getting clearance to work somewhere where you have access to top secret information is very different to getting a normal job. The worst case scenario regarding leaking top secret information is that people actually die. The worst case scenario about most companies leaking information is that the company makes less money and loses its competitive advantage. I would defend to the hilt the right of government to vet prospective employees going into sensitive work to the level you describe as my safety may wel

        • .. but I also can't really stand up for someone that posts utter dribble online then whines about not getting that professional job they want because they aren't professional..

          There is something wrong when a profession seeks to regulate conduct beyond the bounds of the profession, whether formally or informally. If you do the job well, but you also, for example, have a drunk driving record, or a civil disobedience record, or even a felony murder record but you've served your time, why shouldn't you be able to be a doctor or lawyer where, for example, none of this has ever interfered with your duties to a patient or client?

          We prohibit discrimination on the basis of race or sex or

          • by Fluffeh (1273756)

            We prohibit discrimination on the basis of race or sex or national origin. Why not prohibit discrimination based on, for example, the presence of racy photos of you online?

            Because most employers aren't hiring people to work by themselves without any contact whatsoever to anyone - whether other employees or customers.

            I think if a person posts online saying that they did , then employers SHOULD be able to look at it and include that in their review of the person to see if they will fit into their company. Remember, this isn't about whether or not drunk driving, civil disobedience or felony murder are reviewed - all of those things can't really be hidden online. This is about po

            • by Nursie (632944)

              "I do think that if you think it's okay to post things on social media networks - companies looking to employ you are within their rights to look at them."

              Even if only shared with friends and spirited out of there by subterfuge?

              I know that we on slashdot are aware that if you put it online, even locked down or under a pseudonym, it should be regarded as published to the world, but I was under the impression that was a grudging acceptance of reality, not a position to be approved of.

              • by Fluffeh (1273756)

                I know that we on slashdot are aware that if you put it online, even locked down or under a pseudonym, it should be regarded as published to the world, but I was under the impression that was a grudging acceptance of reality, not a position to be approved of.

                I actually think that there is a middle line to be drawn here. If we post something to a group of friends on (lets assume) a SN that allows for things to be sent to only selected people, then it won't ever get on to such sites as in the article. They cannot simply access your private conversations. A person whose online pseudonym has no relation to their name and who doesn't post linking information won't ever worry about it. What is going on here is that the senators are taking up a asinine position on som

            • If they are including permission to login to your account or be added to your friends list for continued employment, that is akin to setting up surveillance in your home... They're looking into private conversations among friends. It's not appropriate. I don't trot out every detail of my life online, but that still doesn't make it right. If you aren't in a role of spokesperson for said company, it is wrong to even think of such an intrusion.
          • Exactly. What I do, what I say, or what I don't do or say, for x number of hours each day, is the business of my employer. When I clock out, nothing that I do, or don't do, is any business of theirs. Nothing. If I want to dress in tights, and swing from the chandoliers at the local watering hole, that is the business of myself, the owner of the watering hole, and any customers who might be present. The ONLY thing my employer needs to know, is whether I am competent to perform my duties while on the job

            • by JosKarith (757063)
              In my job, being charged with any criminal act is grounds for an immediate disciplinary hearing. That's fine - it's basically the company covering its ass. Finding out that I've been passed up for opportunities because I like to party hard at the weekend wouldn't be.
        • I don't really quite know where to step in on this argument. I personally think that companies that do these sort of background checks are taking the wrong approach to human resource management, but I also can't really stand up for someone that posts utter dribble online then whines about not getting that professional job they want because they aren't professional. [snip]

          [Emphasis Added]

          Here's where I have an issue. Why is it my employer's concern what I do when I'm not working? I can see criminal background checks, verification of employment and references and even (although it sticks in my craw) drug testing. The first two are okay because people lie and these areas may impact job performance and/or other employees. The third also may impact job performance, but is really not anyone's business (that being said, if you can't stop long enough to pass an employment dr

        • by yuhong (1378501)

          Personally, I believe that in most cases the problems needs to be fixed, a lot (but not all) of professionalism is overrated, and the illusions that celebrities are perfect is a bad idea.

      • Re:Shocking. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday September 19, 2011 @05:28PM (#37449950)

        It isn't so much about posting illegal stuff. What concerns me far more is that some moronic hiring manager might object to me posting stories about AGW, or that I think it's great that Obama won. I generally wouldn't want to work for him in the first place, but just in case I really, really need that job, I don't want that to be an issue.

        Ergo, fake name.

        • Re:Shocking. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Seumas (6865) on Monday September 19, 2011 @05:53PM (#37450236)

          You no longer need to ask awkward or illegal questions to discriminate. Just google 'em. "I don't want no libertarians! I don't want no republicans or democrats! I don't want no atheists or jews or wiccans! I don't want no avid video gamers! I don't want no single people! I don't want me no people with children working here!

          Of course, these companies "blur out information that could raise legal concerns for the employer" and there's certainly no way the employer could expound on that initial information on their own or anything...! *cough*

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            Unfortunately discrimination is almost impossible to prove. If someone turns you down for a job because of your Asian name there isn't much you can do. The only option is to try to make society as a whole not discriminate.

            Sometimes life just isn't fair.

        • by retchdog (1319261)

          I agree completely, but to play devil's advocate: it might be good to consolidate the filtering in a few specialized firms like this.

          There was a gizmodo (?) article which described the results of running this service on their staff; iirc, it picked up only the illegal stuff like drug use. They explicitly don't report on things like "normal" partying and even pregnancy (which some companies discriminate).

          Since this company has invested resources and specialized, they take on liability; you can sue them and m

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            There was a gizmodo (?) article which described the results of running this service on their staff; iirc, it picked up only the illegal stuff like drug use. They explicitly don't report on things like "normal" partying and even pregnancy (which some companies discriminate).

            The Gizmodo article is http://gizmodo.com/5818774/this-is-a-social-media-background-check [gizmodo.com]

            In fact, if you look at his report (he posted the entire thing online), they did a good job redacting stuff that doesn't matter, and stuff that emplo

        • Facebook is a fake passport you self publish with engineered data. Better alma mater, highlights from my interesting past, fabrications of even more fantastic stuff. Friends with many olympians, nobel laureates, and big wigs, post in many languages. Don't really dwell on my living in a trailer, meth use or criminale past. No mention of life on the pogue, binge drinking, whoring or gambling... just well engineered posts of my frequent workouts and workday successes.
          • Facebook is a fake passport you self publish with engineered data. Better alma mater, highlights from my interesting past, fabrications of even more fantastic stuff. Friends with many olympians, nobel laureates, and big wigs, post in many languages.

            Nice technique! I'm also an engineer (PhD), but averse to such immoderate self-aggrandizement.
            The truth is in my LinkedIn profile, which contains no links to any pseudonymous accounts or references to any nom-de-net that I use. Even there, I don't present any links to our home web server, which is separate from all other web presences.

            A bunch of bogus empty accounts exist on FaceBook, all with my real name or common mis-spellings of it (my name is quite distinctive, so this was a necessary defensive mov

        • "I generally wouldn't want to work for him in the first place, but just in case I really, really need that job, I don't want that to be an issue."

          If they are really that discerning, you're not going to get the job anyways.

          The town I live in has an "Independent Automotive Shop Association" that essentially pools information to lock down the vast majority of automotive repair shop jobs. They simply share information, kinda like what is happening with social media, but more pervasive (in a local sense) and far

      • by Feyshtey (1523799)
        How about the empoyer that chooses not to hire you because you posted on some forumn somewhere that you dislike the current president's policies.....
      • by JosKarith (757063)
        If you post it on a publically accessible site then it's basically out in the public domain. Don't post what you don't want people to see.
        IMHO if a potential emplyer read my profile and took exception to "Had an awesome weekend. Went to Fran's 21st which got a "little" out of hand, enjoyed a great day with my wife on sat and kicked ass @ LARP on sunday" then I _really_ don't want to work there.
    • Re:Shocking. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Monday September 19, 2011 @05:16PM (#37449752)

      I like how this is a story about privacy, and the article includes an example report sent to a client. But it's OK, because they blur out everything in the report. They blur out "parkerpdx", for example, so that you can't tell that the report is about someone called "parkerpdx", who incidentally has a Facebook page under that name (hi, Parker Bell, good luck with your Oxycontin biz). They also helpfully blurred out "Test Company" in the name (why bother?) and I may be able to figure out the guy's hotmail.com address if I want to spend that much time (it starts with "lynch").

      So yeah, great job on protecting privacy guys, especially in the story about how this company is a threat to privacy.

    • by Aeiri (713218)
      Tech savvy Indian people, at least those around me, already have 2 facebook accounts. 1 for real use, with a fake name like you say, and one for family. Apparently families in India are crazy about facebook stuff.
    • Or, really not. That's why I have a Facebook account with a believable, but fake name. Good luck to all companies trying to find my social network presence. You get LinkedIn, and that's it. To any company that requires my social network information to hire me: No, you don't. And I'd rather not work for you, if you think you do.

      That's fine until they get social networks to institute policies that, with the backing of new laws if nec., make it impossible to social network while misrepresenting your true identity. Then, companies will either have your real social networking history, or they will have a "reasonable" suspicion that you are either a misanthrope or hiding something, and in either case, a poor fit for their company culture.

      Next thing you know, you will be reminded when patronizing "responsible" companies that they only

    • by Seumas (6865)

      Real name or not, it only takes a minimal amount of effort for data gatherers to work together or pool data together and derive an identity from you. That's one of the benefits (for the data miners) of having, say, the Facebook connect/like/whatever stuff on EVERY WEB PAGE IN EXISTENCE. Know a couple or so pieces of information about a person (doesn't have to include their name) and you can be pretty certain about who you are zero-ing in on.

      • by BitterOak (537666)

        Real name or not, it only takes a minimal amount of effort for data gatherers to work together or pool data together and derive an identity from you. That's one of the benefits (for the data miners) of having, say, the Facebook connect/like/whatever stuff on EVERY WEB PAGE IN EXISTENCE. Know a couple or so pieces of information about a person (doesn't have to include their name) and you can be pretty certain about who you are zero-ing in on.

        Absolutely. The GP is kidding himself if he thinks that by simply using a fake name the data mining companies, whose job it is to mine data from social networks, can't find you.

        And even if you are successful in hiding behind a fake name, it will be harder and harder to find work if you don't have a Facebook page. As the Facebook generation enters the workforce, it will be increasingly rare for a job candidate to not have a Facebook page. Why would an employer choose the one person in the pile who they ca

        • by Cwix (1671282)

          Built up a strong one on myspace, didn't pan out, wont do that again.

          All I got was headaches and annoyances.

          I don't have a facebook page and I had no prob landing a good job. Employers appreciate good references, not lotsa friends that you never talk to and don't really know. Frankly I think HR is prob more interested in weather or not you can keep private stuff private. Which with no facebook your doing good.

    • The problem isn't what you may or may not post under a profile with your real name (or a fake name). What happens when a friend of yours decides to tag you at a political protest, or tags a non pg-rated picture with your name? Does it matter whether its really you? Or whether the "friend" who tagged it is really a friend? The article mentions "racially insensitive" material is a flag - what if you are a stand up comic on the side? It mentions "sexually explicit" - who determines what that line is?

      So
    • If you have any pictures of yourself on your pseudonymous Facebook account, it is only a matter of time (and a fairly short time, too, I'll wager) before  your real identity is known.  Facial recognition has come a long way.
    • by cerebis (560975)
      In the world of network science this strategy is about as effective as putting a pseudonym on your mailbox and expecting to function as a effective hideout.
  • by Meshach (578918) on Monday September 19, 2011 @05:02PM (#37449570)
    I am all for privacy but everything posted on Facebook that is public is, by definition, public information. If a person wants to keep something private do not post it on Facebook!

    What is next, banning Googling the name of a candidate/employee?
    • by compro01 (777531)

      If a person wants to keep something private do not post it on Facebook!

      Furthermore, spy on everyone who knows your name to ensure that they don't post anything about you.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Bingo. A couple weeks ago some script kiddie sort-of-but-not-really hacked a poorly-secured website that we run. Someone in our company was tasked with tracking down who the guy was. The script kiddie made it easy--he posted about it on facebook, under an assumed name. And without so much as a whiff of law-enforcement help, the guy in our company figured out not only who he really is, but his address, his employer, his parents' address, the church he goes to, the name and contact information of the pers
      • by rts008 (812749)

        Hear! Hear!

        BTW, I just tried to add you to my 'friends' list, but it did not work for some reason...
        Wow, you really ARE stealthy! ;-)

    • The only value I can even see in seeking out this information is to get around the fact that they can't fire alcoholics as easily as in the past. Someone looks like they party? Well, they might be an alcoholic, let's not hire them. It's that absurd. But allow them to gather this information (no matter how public) and we're coming to this:

      I won't hire you because you can't see the difference between acting on public information and actively seeking out personal information that happens to be public.
      I won't h

    • by Baloroth (2370816)
      Well, Al Franken is a comedian...
    • by erroneus (253617)

      Actually, it is a privacy concern. Context is an important line between professional and personal life.

      And let's turn the tables on these companies who think there is no such line. 1. Let's use company resources to do personal things. 2. Let's stalk the HR and C-level employees and print out various tid-bits of data that is discovered. A little of that goose vs gander should put things into proper perspective.

      Respect needs to go two ways or it's not good respect. If your employer doesn't respect you, t

      • by yuhong (1378501)

        Yea, the illusion the celebrities are perfect is a bad idea, and I have been saying it for a while now.

    • This has nothing to do with whether the information is public or private. It has everything to do with the fact that if it happens outside of a person's job, it is none of their employer's goddamn business. If you choose to be married or single, that is (or might be) public information, but it's still illegal to not hire you based upon it.
    • by surmak (1238244)

      I am all for privacy but everything posted on Facebook that is public is, by definition, public information. If a person wants to keep something private do not post it on Facebook!

      Most of what is on Facebook is not public. There is an access control system that, by default, limits your posts to friend of friends. You can adjust the permissions of every post to be accessible to whatever set of people you desire. I realize that they will do data mining, but that information is only used internally to target ads. I have no problem with any of this.

      What I do have a problem with is when Facebook violates the agreement or when someone (a potential employer, for example) requires that y

    • by antdude (79039)

      Or don't post anything online on the Internet!

  • Just asking, because it seems that ... oh wait, someone's at the doo#(*(*@&@&NO_CARRIER
    • by tqk (413719)

      I was just wondering what they would think if you showed up at the interview (assuming you were offered one) with the same sort of background check on the interviewer. Perhaps a few of those stories hitting the newspapers would get them to think twice about this practice.

      Why are they even bothering to check credit histories of applicants? It's a recession, the guy's looking for a job to pay bills. What's his credit history got to do with employment (assuming he's not going to be handling money)?

      • Sounds like a great way to get a job. "So, Bill, I see you like cosplay. Transvestite cosplay. Interesting. So, what kind of salary are you offering?"

        • by tqk (413719)

          Sounds like a great way to get a job. "So, Bill, I see you like cosplay. Transvestite cosplay. Interesting. So, what kind of salary are you offering?"

          I like it. :-)

          "Assuming I get the job, no-one need hear about that, 'kay?"

      • by sconeu (64226)

        In the Defense world, it's done because someone with a large amount of debt or crappy credit score is a potential security risk. Good luck getting a security clearance with credit problems.

        • by tqk (413719)

          In the Defense world, it's done because someone with a large amount of debt or crappy credit score is a potential security risk.

          Yeah, but it's still wrong. As a male Homo Sapien, I'm potentially lots of things, including the next Galileo or Jeffrey Daumer.

          It ought to be something that ongoing background checks keep tabs on. Is my debt load shrinking? Does my bank acct. show any odd financial transactions or is my spending outstripping my salary and not reflected in my bank transactions?

          Do they want the best, or just grey, featureless drones who can fly under the radar (a la Aldrich Ames)?

      • You bring up a good point. Not only should the interviewer come clean but we need background checks and social media reports on employees of the company doing the screening. Maybe their values and social life doesn't match the company that hired them!

        • by tqk (413719)

          I like this too:

          You bring up a good point. Not only should the interviewer come clean but we need background checks and social media reports on employees of the company doing the screening.

          "Do you have any questions for us?[*]"

          "Yes. As you've just admitted you've been digging into my private life to see if I'm suitable for you, I'd like access to your files on the people I'd be working with, up to and including the CEO, to ensure they'll be suitable for me. Don't worry, it'll all be kept confidential. If I'm placing my professional reputation on the line, I deserve to know who I'll be dealing with. It's only fair."

          [*] I have never known what to do with that question. "Do

      • by dave562 (969951)

        I do research on any company that I interview with. Especially in this market, it is important to understand as much about the company and their industry as possible. With LinkedIn you can even learn about the individuals who might be on your team or even be your boss. I take my employment seriously, and just as interviews will have questions for me, I will have questions for them. Mostly I focus on budgets, revenues, five year plans and things like that. If the company cannot demonstrate that they are

  • by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Monday September 19, 2011 @05:47PM (#37450174)

    "A certain ... agitator. For privacy's sake, let's call her 'Lisa S.' No, that's too obvious, let's say, 'L. Simpson.'"

  • by maz2331 (1104901) on Monday September 19, 2011 @05:59PM (#37450320)

    Facebook posts are copyrighted by the poster, the same as any newspaper article or photograph is, and if they use those copyrighted works in their reports, they are infringing - and good luck trying to make a fair use exemption fly if sued over it.

    • by Kirijini (214824)

      That's an excellent point, and I'd mod up if I had points.

      Facebook can sublicense your info to a third party ("you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook"), but that sub sublicense necessarily terminates when facebook's does - when/if you remove the info ("This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account..."), though there may be a loophole if you've "shared" the info wi

  • by ad454 (325846) on Monday September 19, 2011 @06:00PM (#37450324)

    If corporations can get indefinite copyright protection for everything under the sun, why can't individuals get the same protections?

    A user should be able to copyright their social profile postings, browsing history, purchasing habits, etc., and sue any corporation that uses it without authorization. Just because something is on the Internet does not mean that the rights holder gives up their copyright.

    If a company like Sony music puts a song on the Internet for others to download, perhaps as a promotion, then a movie studio would not automatically have permission to use that song in a commercial film without written permission. So why can't I sue these online check firms for using my personal data without my written authorization?

    • Write everything about yourself in a book format. Hmmmm.... that's an Autobiography. Copyright the book. Ta-daa, your life story is now copyrighted.

    • by MacWiz (665750)

      "If a company like Sony music puts a song on the Internet for others to download..."

      Okay, now THAT is funny!

  • In the end, a company like this can only get a hold of web accessible information - i.e., information you (or someone else) puts out there.

    But there are dozens of major companies out there that compile profiles on individuals based on public records, credit scores, social networking, police records, and private marketing data - you've got much more to "worry" about (if you're prone to such worrying) from them than you are from someone who's just looking at what you post publicly on Facebook.

    Anyone can get an account with Lexis Nexis, among others, who compile data like this into handy little reports. The vast majority of it is public record, but anyone paranoid about something like Facebook would be scared shitless about all the information available in one place from companies like this.

    • by dave562 (969951)

      This is a good point. Lexis Nexis is no joke. I did not realize quite how evil they were until I was working for a non-profit, and the Lexis Nexis people were offering to profile the donors to the non-profit. They were going to provide metrics on their "capacity to give" based on a whole slew of semi-public financial information like real estate holdings, trusts, etc.

  • To mine publicly available information that cannot be considered "private" due to it being published? And present that information in a bundle to a paying customer based on search criteria....

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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