In 1949, George Orwell published the book “1984” in which he portrayed the perfect totalitarian society, which is a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of human life. The book is an intriguing, somewhat complicated, political novel which is full of symbolism and some absolutely amazing descriptions of future technology and government which sound very much like what we have in the United States today. For example, there are huge ‘telescreens’ in every citizen’s room which show a constant stream of propaganda and which also monitor behavior much like modern-day security cameras. The government watches for any signs of disloyalty… to the point that even the smallest suspicious act could lead to an arrest.
In addition, the government controls all sources of information, managing and rewriting the content of all newspapers and histories, much like some modern-day officials are literally re-writing past history in order to wipe out records of past historical acts by governments of various countries so that future generations will not know about past heinous acts of war... among other things... and will perceive them in a more positive light.
This article is not intended as a book review and doesn’t even begin to ’scratch the surface’ when it comes to describing the details of the book. However, “1984” is a must-read book for anybody who cares about the current and future status of our country. The point in mentioning this book is to lead into the subject of just how much ‘Big Brother’ is not only watching you, but gathering data on just about everything you do, and putting that data on the Internet.
Most U.S. citizens know about the three primary credit reporting agencies which are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Each of these agencies contain information about your payment history with various creditors nationwide, the amount of credit you have available, the amount of credit you use, and other public information such as bankruptcies, liens and judgments. Each of these agencies will provide you with one free credit report every 12 months.
There are also companies which collect information regarding checking account applications, openings and closings (including the reasons for account closings). Such companies include Chex Systems, Certegy Check Services, and Telecheck. There are even companies who keep track of payday advance loans, including Factor Trust, Clarity Services, CL Verify Microbilt, CoreLogic Teletrack, and DataX.
The following companies collect information regarding insurance claims and loss information related to homes or commercial properties Insurance Services Office (ISO) (A Plus Property Reports), motor vehicle records (including traffic violations and accident reports) (Insurance Information Exchange), insurance coverage and losses associated with individuals and their personal property and information about individuals’ car insurance coverage and losses (L.N. - Clue Personal Property Report and Clue Auto Report).
In addition to the above, there are Supplementary/Alternative Credit Reports. Such reports are provided by the following companies:
- CoreLogic Credco LLC: includes property tax filings, rental applications and evictions, property ownership and mortgage obligation records, payday loan and online lending information, as well as bankruptcy, lien, and child support obligations.
- L2C: provides credit reports with data from a variety of purchased and publicly available sources.
- Pay Rent Build Credit (PRBC)/Microbilt: includes credit information, bill payment information, employment information, bank account data, property records, court judgments, as well as address and phone information for use in credit decisions.
- ID Analytics: provides identity information (name, address, phone, etc.) used in credit activity.
- Innovis: provides supplementary credit reports to lenders.
- National Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange: collects information on new connect requests, account and payment histories, defaults, and default accounts associated with telecommunications, pay TV, and utility (electric, gas and water) services.
There are also companies which collect information regarding rentals data for tenant screening, and tenant history. Examples include: CoreLogic SafeRent, LexisNexis Screening Solutions Inc., Leasing Desk (Real Page) and Tenant Data Services which collects information regarding rental performance history (damages, unauthorized pets, lease violations, skips, etc.)
More and more insurance companies and medical providers are collecting information about medical conditions (Medical Information Bureau) and prescription drug purchases (Milliman IntelliScript). Not only are they collecting this information, they are putting that information online. Have you been informed yet by YOUR DOCTOR that you can view your medical records through what they call an ‘e-patient portal’ which is a method of communication between your doctor and yourself? In addition, you can view your personal medical history, a summary of each office visit, a list of medications prescribed, a list of labwork ordered by your doctor, etc. Do you really want your complete medical history available on the Internet? What if the website containing your personal medical information was hacked?
There are also numerous companies which provide employment background screening services and employment history reports. Examples are Accurate Background, Contemporary Information Corp., EmployeeScreenIQ, First Advantage, GIS, HireRight, Infocubic, Intellicorp, Lexis Nexis Screening Solutions, Inc., Trak 1 Technology, and Verifications Inc. In addition, Early Warning Services collects checking account information, especially negative information for financial institution employees; Pre-employ.com provides employment background, investigative, and consumer reports; and The Work Number provides employment and income verification and includes data collected from large private sector payroll processors.
According to an article dated June 16, 2012 and published in The New York Times by Natasha Singer, there is also Acxiom Corporation, headquartered in Conway, Arkansas, which has the world’s largest commercial database on approximately 500 million active consumers worldwide, including a majority of adults in the United States. This company collects approximately 1500 data points per person.
Acxiom Corporation's Data Products Catalog offers hundreds of details which corporate clients can buy regarding individuals or households in order to augment their own marketing databases. For example, companies can buy data regarding households concerned about various medical conditions and needs as well as information regarding amounts of home loans and household incomes. Jeffrey Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a nonprofit group in Washington, says: ‘It is Big Brother in Arkansas.’
Suppose that you are a law-abiding, model citizen, a conscientious worker, an excellent driver, and that you have excellent credit and a history of perfect health. Do you still think you have nothing to worry about? Well, who did you vote for in the 2012 presidential election?
Did you know that the Obama campaign gave its database of millions of supporters to Organizing For Action (OFA), an advocacy group set up in recent weeks by the president’s top political aides? According to an article dated January 28, 2013, by Michael Isikoff, National Investigative Correspondent of NBC News, ‘the Obama campaign database is widely described as one of the most powerful tools ever developed in American politics… it contains the names of at least 4 million Obama donors--as well as millions of others (the campaign has consistently refused to say how many) compiled from voter registration rolls and other public databases. In addition, the campaign used sophisticated computer programs… to collect information through social media: Anybody who contacted the campaign through Facebook had their friends and ‘likes’ downloaded. If they contacted the campaign website through mobile apps, cellphone numbers and address books were downloaded. Computer ‘cookies’ captured Web browsing and online spending habits.’
Last but not least, on January 30, 2013, Michael Isikoff of NBC broke the news that the Department of Justice had issued a confidential memo stating that the ‘United States government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be senior operational leaders of al-Qaida or an associated force-even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.’ Michael Isikoff goes on to say that this plan includes the ‘increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged Al-Qaida operatives Anwar-Al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.’ Also included within this article was the following statement by Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU, ‘This is a chilling document. Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen… It recognizes some limits on the authority it sets out, but the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated.’ The ACLU is suing to obtain administration memos about the targeted killing of Americans.
Within this news story, Michael Isikoff provided a link on which to click in order for the reader to go view the actual ‘Department of Justice White Paper’. However, it is interesting to note that, when this writer clicked on the link, there were repeated Internet errors, making it almost impossible to actually access the link. However, after multiple online searches, this writer was finally able to access a copy of the 16-page ‘Department of Justice White Paper’. What are the chances of the repeated inaccessibility to the link provided by NBC News being a coincidence? It seems as if ‘Big Brother’ did not want people to be able to view this document.
In closing, consider the following quote from George Orwell’s book ‘1984’ in which an inner party member describes the party’s vision of the future:
‘There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always--do not forget this…--always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face--forever.’
--Part III, Chapter III, Nineteen Eighty-Four