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Choicepoint: At Least They’re Consistent

You may recall Choicepoint as the firm that produced a highly flawed list of supposedly disqualified voters for the Florida recount in the 2000 Presidential election. Courtesy of a routine background check run on me very recently, I know a little more how they operate, and it smells to high heaven.

The company that used Choicepoint sent me a courtesy copy of my background check (and that’s excellent practice–it’s legally required in California, but I doubt the disqualified voters in Florida received copies of their reports, regardless of the law there). I was clean as a whistle on most of the report, as is indeed correct, but to my horror discovered that “I” supposedly had two pending civil litigation cases. Looking more closely, I saw that in each case, “I” was married to a different man. Not only that, but “I” had been embroiled in these cases at the same time I was qualifying for a home loan.

I called Choicepoint and contested the information. They quickly backed down, and told me to check back in ten days. A representative from the firm that used the background check told me Choicepoint has “no choice” but to back down on most of these cases, due to lack of evidence, and that became obvious when I asked the next question. How did they get this information, I asked? The Choicepoint representative told me that this information represents a simple first-last name search of pending cases in the county I live in. In other words, a sloppy search not worthy of a first-semester library student provided the information for this report. Any Karen Schneider with past or pending civil litigation could have been (and was) listed in the section supposedly representing a background check about me and my worthiness.

Choicepoint has a tiny disclaimer at the beginning of the report: “The Report does not guarantee the accuracy or truthfulness of the information as to the subject of the investigation, but only that it is accurately copied from the public records.” I loudly contest that statement. My “history” of civil litigation was merely a data-dump of random Googlesque searching of public records. It wasn’t based on the sensitive and personal information I had to provide for this background check, and it had absolutely no human review, let alone bearing on reality.

Choicepoint claims to be a quality source of the kind of information used for career decisions, major purchases, voting eligibility, and even your FBI record, should you be so lucky to have one. There is plenty of evidence that Choicepoint helped elect (or at least appoint) our current president based on badly flawed data that unfairly disenfranchised voters and swung the vote the wrong way. My experience provides more evidence that Choicepoint routinely chooses methods guaranteed to produce bad data. If you use Choicepoint, or if it is used on you, beware. And I’ll update this in ten days, after they have supposedly cleaned up my record.

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