Data Accuracy

Data accuracy becomes an issue, especially when important decisions are being made based on database results.

Let's go back to ChoicePoint (CP), the largest supplier of personal information to the Federal Government. In January 2002, a New York Jury awarded $450,000 in damages to an individual who lost a job opportunity because his profile created by CP contained a false criminal conviction. In that case, the judge found that CP either intentionally maintained substandard procedures for verifying accuracy of data or should have known that its procedures were substandard under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (Obabueki v. IBM, 145 F. Supp. 2d 371, 2002).

Another incident involving faulty data that had much larger repercussions occurred in 1998 when the Florida state legislature made an unprecedented decision to "scrub" ineligible voters--mostly ex-felons--from the state's voter registration list. The state legislature claimed this was the necessary response to a botched Miami mayoral race in which numerous illegal votes were cast. But the $4 million contract went to ChoicePoint, and it is estimated that thousands of voters--disproportionately black--were unduly disenfranchised in the 2000 Presidential election as a result of faulty, unverified data. For a state in which the victory margin was just 537 votes and ultimately decided the national election, this error really made quite a difference.

CP is not the only company with data accuracy problems. A recent study by U.S. PIRG found that seventy percent of all credit reports contain errors. Twenty-nine percent of these errors were due to mixing up files or reporting credit accounts for one person that actually belonged to another consumer.

When these mistakes are found, it is the individual who is faced with the nearly impossible task of tracing the source of the error and rectifying it across numerous databases. Substantial amounts of time, money and knowledge are needed to complete this daunting task.

Related Matter

Introduction

U.S. Trends:
Data Collection Explosion
Data Warehouses
Government-Business Connection
Operation Shamrock
Data Accuracy
Fair Information Practices
The MATRIX (Formerly TIA)
Secure Flight (Formerly CAPPS II)
Infragard, TIPS and Cat Eyes
The USA Patriot Act
CALEA

Canada and Outside the U.S.