[MacUser] ID Software for sale

VKN vkn at afrigeneas.com
Thu Nov 20 14:07:56 EST 2003

[ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 11/20/03 ]

ID software for sale to the public

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Does your job candidate have a rap sheet? Does a potential client have a
history of not paying bills? Software now on sale at Sam's Club can help you
find the answer.

ChoicePoint, the Alpharetta company that specializes in identification
verification, has launched three products that make its databases of
personal information available to consumers.

Until now the company has worked mostly with government agencies, Fortune
500 companies and police departments. It provides pre-employment background
checks, personal dossiers, insurance underwriting software and other
verification services.

Going retail is "a strategy to take our products to different channels,"
ChoicePoint Vice President Deslie Quinby said.

The products first appeared on shelves last month in 41 Sam's Clubs across
the country, including one metro Atlanta store, in Alpharetta. The cereal
box-sized packages contain CDs and handbooks that allow the purchaser access
to a ChoicePoint Web site and instructions on how to do a background check
and other investigations.

James Lee, ChoicePoint's marketing vice president, said both ChoicePoint and
Sam's Club saw a niche for retailing small-business products, and the
partnership developed this summer.

Small-business owners can use the software, priced from $30 to $60, to get
the latest address and telephone number of a company that owes them money,
learn if a potential hire has a criminal conviction and buy a customized
direct mailing list of 850 names.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information
Center in Washington, warned that ChoicePoint may open itself to defamation
charges if it shares personal information that is not accurate or complete.

He questioned whether sharing personal information is legal.

"Providing information about individuals for background checks has always
been controversial," he said.

Past criticism

ChoicePoint has encountered criticism in the past. It agreed this year to
stop collecting information on 65 million Mexican citizens after a media
firestorm and a ruling from Mexico's Federal Election Institute that the
names and other information ChoicePoint bought were confidential.

ChoicePoint says it is taking privacy into account on its new products and
will sell the "Employee Background Check" product only to buyers who provide
a valid business license.

The software, priced at $40, provides one 10-year background check of
criminal convictions and employment and identity verification.

"We have a series of call centers," Quinby said. "We call the place where
they used to work, and the same with the reference. And we'll send people to
a courthouse and pull a record."

Written consent

The purchaser agrees to obtain written consent from the person undergoing
the check, Lee said, and keep that record on file for at least seven years.
The user also must agree to be audited by ChoicePoint.

Those restrictions make it impossible to use the products simply to be nosy
or make mischief, ChoicePoint says.

"There is not a way that you could use this to check on your neighbor or
your daughter's boyfriend," said Lee.

The other products are for sale to anyone who wants to know a little more
about a company.

"Minimize Business Risk," sold for $30, provides 50 searches of an array of
public records to show if a company has been in bankruptcy, what real estate
it owns, incorporation records and white pages for updated phone numbers.
The information does not contain personal credit histories but rather a
corporation's history of bankruptcies, liens and judgments.

"Find New Customers" allows the consumer to get a list of names and
addresses sorted by parameters such as age, location, income level and sex.
All are approved for either telemarketing or direct mail, Lee said.

ChoicePoint will test the products for several months to determine how
they're selling. With no advertising so far, Sam's Club has sold "a medium
amount," Quinby said.

The two companies will decide what approach works best and may adjust sales
price or packaging, she said.

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