Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 29, 2014

“Sharing is caring”

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Christopher Bellavita on May 29, 2014

Here’s a line from President Obama’s West Point talk on May 28th:

That’s why we’re putting in place new restrictions on how America collects and uses intelligence — because we will have fewer partners and be less effective if a perception takes hold that we’re conducting surveillance against ordinary citizens.

When it comes to conducting surveillance on Americans, there’s more to look at than government.

The same day the President spoke to the army cadets,  Leo Mirani and Max Nisen at Quartz  wrote about the “The nine companies that know more about you than Google or Facebook”.

The companies, called “data brokers” are: Acxiom, Corelogic, Datalogix, eBureau, ID Analytics, Intelius, PeekYou, Rapleaf, and Recorded Future.   I’ve never heard of them.

Their business  - and there are more companies in the business than these nine – is “collecting and selling personal data—typically without your knowledge or consent—that are used to verify identity, help marketers, detect fraud and help perform detailed “people searches.”

You might want to check out http://www.spokeo.com/ to get an idea what data brokers can already “share” about you.

The Quartz story is in response to a Federal Trade Commission report (available at this link) titled “Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability.”

One finding from the FTC report:

Data brokers combine and analyze data about consumers to make inferences about them, including potentially sensitive inferences such as those related to ethnicity, income, religion, political leanings, age, and health conditions. Potentially sensitive categories from the study are “Urban Scramble” and “Mobile Mixers,” both of which include a high concentration of Latinos and African-Americans with low incomes. The category “Rural Everlasting” includes single men and women over age 66 with “low educational attainment and low net worths.” Other potentially sensitive categories include health-related topics or conditions, such as pregnancy, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

Commenting on the recent European Court of Justice decision that people have [a]“right to be forgotten” on the internet, Evgeny Morozov gives an example of how consumer data can be used in ways more operationally harmful to regular people than NSA MetaDataCrunching (a term I shamelessly made up):

… the knowledge that you drink coffee rather than kale juice in the morning would surely improve [a bank or insurance company's] ability to predict whether you might suffer a heart attack in the next five years—an extremely relevant bit of information for deciding whether to give you a loan or insurance and at what rates. …  As Douglas Merrill, the former chief information officer of Google and the founder of ZestFinance, a start-up that looks at more than 80,000 data points to assess your suitability for credit, puts it: “All data is credit data.” 

So, what data are these data brokers collecting?  No one knows with certainty because the companies do not have to tell people what they are gathering.

Appendix B in the FTC report provides something called an “Illustrative list of Data Elements and Segments,”  information someone can buy to help figure out what and how to sell — or not to sell  –  to you.    I suspect there are other uses for the data. I’m guessing there also are more Elements and Segments than are in the FTC appendix.

Identifying Data
• Name
• Previously Used Names
• Address
• Address History
• Longitude and Latitude
• Phone Numbers
• Email Address

Sensitive Identifying Data
• Social Security Number
• Driver’s License Number
• Birth Date
• Birth Dates of Each Child in Household
• Birth Date of Family Members in

Household Demographic Data
• Age
• Height
• Weight
• Gender
• Race & Ethnicity
• Country of Origin
• Religion (by Surname at the Household Level)
• Language
• Marital Status
• Presence of Elderly Parent
• Presence of Children in Household
• Education Level
• Occupation
• Family Ties
• Demographic Characteristics of Family Members in Household
• Number of Surnames in Household
• Veteran in Household
• Grandparent in House
• Spanish Speaker
• Foreign Language Household (e.g., Russian, Hindi, Tagalog, Cantonese)
• Households with a Householder who is Hispanic Origin or Latino
• Employed – White Collar Occupation
• Employed – Blue Collar Occupation
• Work at Home Flag
• Length of Residence
• Household Size
• Congressional District
• Single Parent with Children
• Ethnic and Religious Affiliations

Court and Public Record Data
• Bankruptcies
• Criminal Offenses and Convictions
• Judgments
• Liens
• Marriage Licenses
• State Licenses and Registrations (e.g., Hunting, Fishing, Professional)
• Voting Registration and Party Identification

Social Media and Technology Data
• Electronics Purchases
• Friend Connections
• Internet Connection Type
• Internet Provider
• Level of Usage
• Heavy Facebook User
• Heavy Twitter User
• Twitter User with 250+ Friends
• Is a Member of over 5 Social Networks
• Online Influence
• Operating System
• Software Purchases
• Type of Media Posted
• Uploaded Pictures
• Use of Long Distance Calling Services
• Presence of Computer Owner
• Use of Mobile Devices
• Social Media and Internet Accounts including: Digg, Facebook, Flickr, Flixster, Friendster, hi5, Hotmail, LinkedIn, Live Journal, MySpace, Twitter, Amazon, Bebo, CafeMom, DailyMotion, Match, myYearbook, NBA.com, Pandora, Photobucket, WordPress, and Yahoo

Home and Neighborhood Data
• Census Tract Data
• Address Coded as Public/Government Housing
• Dwelling Type
• Heating and Cooling
• Home Equity
• Home Loan Amount and Interest Rate
• Home Size
• Lender Type
• Length of Residence
• Listing Price
• Market Value
• Move Date
• Neighborhood Criminal, Demographic, and Business Data
• Number of Baths
• Number of Rooms
• Number of Units
• Presence of Fireplace
• Presence of Garage
• Presence of Home Pool
• Rent Price
• Type of Owner
• Type of Roof
• Year Built

General Interest Data
• Apparel Preferences
• Attendance at Sporting Events
• Charitable Giving
• Gambling – Casinos
• Gambling – State Lotteries
• Thrifty Elders
• Life Events (e.g., Retirement, Newlywed, Expectant Parent)
• Magazine and Catalog Subscriptions
• Media Channels Used
• Participation in Outdoor Activities (e.g., Golf, Motorcycling, Skiing, Camping)
• Participation in Sweepstakes or Contests
• Pets
• Dog Owner
• Political Leanings
• Assimilation Code
• Preferred Celebrities
• Preferred Movie Genres
• Preferred Music Genres
• Reading and Listening Preferences
• Donor (e.g., Religious, Political, Health Causes)
• Financial Newsletter Subscriber
• Upscale Retail Card Holder
• Affluent Baby Boomer
• Working-Class Moms
• Working Woman
• African-American Professional
• Membership Clubs – Self-Help
• Membership Clubs – Wines
• Exercise – Sporty Living
• Winter Activity Enthusiast
• Participant – Motorcycling
• Outdoor/Hunting & Shooting
• Biker/Hell’s Angels
• Santa Fe/Native American Lifestyle
• New Age/Organic Lifestyle
• Is a Member of over 5 Shopping Sites
• Media Channel Usage – Daytime TV
• Bible Lifestyle
• Leans Left
• Political Conservative
• Political Liberal
• Activism & Social Issues

Financial Data
• Ability to Afford Products
• Credit Card User
• Presence of Gold or Platinum Card
• Credit Worthiness
• Recent Mortgage Borrower
• Pennywise Mortgagee
• Financially Challenged
• Owns Stocks or Bonds
• Investment Interests
• Discretionary Income Level
• Credit Active
• Credit Relationship with Financial or Loan Company
• Credit Relationship with Low-End Standalone Department Store
• Number of Investment Properties Owned
• Estimated Income
• Life Insurance
• Loans
• Net Worth Indicator
• Underbanked Indicator
• Tax Return Transcripts
• Type of Credit Cards

Vehicle Data
• Brand Preferences
• Insurance Renewal
• Make & Model
• Vehicles Owned
• Vehicle Identification Numbers
• Vehicle Value Index
• Propensity to Purchase a New or Used Vehicle
• Propensity to Purchase a Particular Vehicle Type (e.g., SUV, Coupe, Sedan)
• Motor Cycle Owner (e.g., Harley, Off-Road Trail Bike)
• Motor Cycle Purchased 0-6 Months Ago
• Boat Owner
• Purchase Date
• Purchase Information
• Intend to Purchase – Vehicle

Travel Data
• Read Books or Magazines About Travel
• Travel Purchase – Highest Price Paid
• Date of Last Travel Purchase
• Air Services – Frequent Flyer
• Vacation Property
• Vacation Type (e.g., Casino, Time Share, Cruises, RV)
• Cruises Booked
• Preferred Vacation Destination
• Preferred Airline

Purchase Behavior Data
• Amount Spent on Goods
• Buying Activity
• Method of Payment
• Number of Orders
• Buying Channel Preference (e.g., Internet, Mail, Phone)
• Types of Purchases
• Military Memorabilia/Weaponry
• Shooting Games
• Guns and Ammunition
• Christian Religious Products
• Jewish Holidays/Judaica Gifts
• Kwanzaa/African-Americana Gifts
• Type of Entertainment Purchased
• Type of Food Purchased
• Average Days Between Orders
• Last Online Order Date
• Last Offline Order Date
• Online Orders $500-$999.99 Range
• Offline Orders $1000+ Range
• Number of Orders – Low-Scale Catalogs
• Number of Orders – High-Scale Catalogs
• Retail Purchases – Most Frequent Category
• Mail Order Responder – Insurance
• Mailability Score
• Dollars – Apparel – Women’s Plus Sizes
• Dollars – Apparel – Men’s Big & Tall
• Books – Mind & Body/Self-Help
• Internet Shopper
• Novelty Elvis

Health Data
• Ailment and Prescription Online Search Propensity
• Propensity to Order Prescriptions by Mail
• Smoker in Household
• Tobacco Usage
• Over the Counter Drug Purchases
• Geriatric Supplies
• Use of Corrective Lenses or Contacts
• Allergy Sufferer
• Have Individual Health Insurance Plan
• Buy Disability Insurance
• Buy Supplemental to Medicare/Medicaid Individual Insurance
• Brand Name Medicine Preference
• Magazines – Health
• Weight Loss & Supplements
• Purchase History or Reported Interest in Health Topics including: Allergies, Arthritis, Medicine Preferences, Cholesterol, Diabetes, Dieting, Body Shaping, Alternative Medicine, Beauty/Physical Enhancement, Disabilities, Homeopathic Remedies, Organic Focus, Orthopedics, and Senior Needs

Imagine if government collected and used Elements and Segments data on Americans — all in the name of providing more effective and more efficient services, of course.  The Nation might long for the good old days when it was only NSA  peeking through the windows.

Somehow it’s different when the private sector collects and uses this information.  I wonder why that is.

Maybe David Eggers got it right in his book, The Circle:

“Secrets are lies. Caring is sharing. Privacy is theft.”


Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print


Comment by Dan OConnor

May 29, 2014 @ 5:37 am

If you didn’t do anything wrong than you’ve got nothing worry about. Trust us…

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 29, 2014 @ 7:32 am

Long long ago in a galaxy far away privacy existed but not now! THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT POST! Many will be learning of these companies for the first time and be shocked. Not me!

And one might ask is their data shared with the government in background investigations in granting or denying personnel security clearances? Why or why not?

Note absence of income tax data!

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 30, 2014 @ 8:35 am

And of course the information collected on key officialdom and members of Congress of great interest to foreign intelligence services.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>