Choicepoint regularly claims a very low rate of errors in their reports. In the Consumer Affairs story, “Choicepoint gets a Makeover,” Choicepoint President Doug “Curling claims his company has a less than 1/10th of 1 percent error rate.”
Now WATE in Knoxville, TN, reports that “Anderson Co. man finds credit report error:”
At his insurance company’s request, ChoicePoint gathered the sum total of Ray’s credit, what he owes for his car, his house, credit cards and other purchases. “It says my grand total of indebtedness is $426,000. That’s about five times what I currently owe,” Ray says.
Some debts Ray paid off showed as though they hadn’t been paid at all. “This was a boat loan” for $50,000, Ray says. “I paid it off over a year ago.”
He also says he went online to ChoicePoint, filed a dispute and spoke with company officials. “My data had not been updated. It was incorrect. My employer was incorrect,” Ray says.
ChoicePoint disputes that any errors were made.
See also my May 2005 posting, “Choicepoint Analyses:”
Choicepoint defines an error as a problem between their collector and the report; bad data collected, which we used to call the “garbage in, garbage out” problem, has been defined away.
and finally, don’t forget Deborah Pierce’s work in “Data Aggregators:
A Study of Data Quality and Responsiveness:”
100% of the reports given out by ChoicePoint had at least one error in them.
The deep trouble here is not that Choicepoint reports are inaccurate (although that seems to be a problem based on impartial reports). The trouble is the accountability disconnect between data collection, aggregation, and use. No one takes responsibility for the decisions that are made based on bad data.
[Update: Just after posting this, I came across “Where’s Waldo? Spotting the Terrorist using Data Broker Information:”
In its coverage of the issue, the Ottawa Citizen reported that since September 2001, the RCMP has been buying and retaining this kind of personal information from data brokers, and in some instances may have forwarded that information to U.S. law enforcement.
Good thing Ray’s inaccurate data was “only” used to deny him credit.]
[Update 2: Choicepoint’s Chuck Jones disagrees; please see comments.]