EPIC Contends Credit Bureaus
Are Selling Personal Records To
IRS, FBI, & Other Agencies

By Jennifer DiSabatino

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a lawsuit seeking the release of information involving the purchase of individuals' private information by U.S. government agencies from companies that sell personal data.
In a statement yesterday, the Washington-based privacy advocacy group said it brought suit under the Freedom of Information Act after several agencies under the Departments of the Treasury and Justice failed to provide EPIC with information about contracts with private profiling companies. Those companies, most notably ChoicePoint Asset in Alpharetta, Georgia, and Experian, the Orange, California-based subsidiary of GUS, sell information on U.S. citizens, including credit information, property records, state motor vehicle records, and marriage and divorce data, to these agencies, the group said.
The concern, according to Chris Hoofnagle, the EPIC attorney who filed the lawsuits, is that these private companies--and ChoicePoint in particular--are furnishing the government with information on individuals that may not be regulated or monitored for accuracy. Advertisement
While Experian is regulated under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, citizens may still not be aware the government is using this data, he said.
Inquisitive Agencies
Among the agencies reported to be obtaining the data are the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the Immigration and Nationalization Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, EPIC said.
"Through the mining of public records and the purchase of credit reporting data, private sector companies are amassing troves of personal information on citizens for the government," Hoofnagle said. "Serious questions exist involving citizen access to profiles, their accuracy, and the potential for misuse of personal information."
ChoicePoint has created a federal government Web portal for agencies to access data.
Charles Miller, a Justice Department spokesperson, said his agency hasn't been served with the lawsuit at its offices, though it's possible the lawsuit was served at the U.S. Attorney's office. Privacy attorneys for the Justice Department would look into it, Miller said. A spokesperson for the Treasury Department couldn't be reached for comment.
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