The home of Sweaty Spice, the 'other' Spice Girl

Data aggregators are services (companies really) that base all their efforts on hoovering up personal data, statistics, and vital information on as much of the US population as possible. We have all heard of the credit rating bureaus, like Equifax, and others, however, they are but the tip of the iceberg.

Most of them are companies you have never heard of, and many of them will provide data on any individual to a 3rd party for a fee. If you go to a bank to take out a loan or mortgage, an aggregator will fill in the gaps, and if you falsify any part of the application, the bank will know about it.

Where you have lived? Yep.

Where you went to school? Yep.

Any aliases? Yep.

Ever change your name? Yep.

You get the idea. All your data, and I do mean ALL of it, is in a data bank somewhere, waiting to be leveraged to market to you, to validate your ability to repay a loan, to provide debt collectors with data to find you if you had an unpaid parking ticket from 35 years ago.

I bring this up, because one of the old guard of the data aggregators, Lexis-Nexis, as part of a settlement with the state of California, now must provide all state residents access to their data, and offer them the ability to fix any errors.

I took advantage of this, it was painless, but unnerving, as I had to provide my Social Security Number to them. However, I justified providing it because of course they already had it, Hell, if you went to college any time before the early oughts, it is likely that your SSN was your student ID number, and it was printed on your payroll stub, as well as part of every bank statement you received. Holy shit, we way overused that datum.

About a week and a half later, I got two formal looking envelopes, with details on how to access a portal to download two password protected, encrypted PDFs (at least that is a good practice).

But I was astounded by how much depth and detail was in there.

When we moved to Tucson from San José in 2003, we spent about 6 weeks in temporary housing at an Extended Stay America. This was listed. As well as the apartment we temped at in Sunnyvale when we moved back.

95 pages of details, including real estate transactions, loans taken, loans repaid.

big brother, from George Orwell's 1984
Big Brother is Watching You!

Some really scary big-brother 1984 shit.

Lexis-Nexis is a huge player, one I first experienced way back when I was dating a woman who was attending law school. As part of her education, she had a VT100 terminal access to Lexis (before it was combined with Nexis) and we poked around one weekend when I was visiting. Back then, it was scary how much data they had. And how easy it was to access it. For anybody. Enter in an address, and you got all the detailed real estate records, and the owner, and you could then drill down into the owner, and deduce a lot about them.

And this was the era before machine learning, and big data analytics algorithms.

Scary shit. This is pretty much why a person really can never go completely off the grid. There are too many bread crumbs to your existence out there, and you can never truly erase your tracks.

I wish our congress critters would do something to rein in this industry. Sure, they have become more selective of who they sell subs to, and there are internal controls to prevent massive data breaches. But data breaches still happen, damaging information is still in their data banks, and a lot of abuse potential exists.

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