Do you ever get the feeling like you are being watched or spied on? Well, chances are you’re not just being paranoid or going coo coo. Airports, banks, and casinos are all examples of public places where we are being watched, supposedly for crime prevention purposes. But with the progression of digital technology, “Big Brother’s” reach has gotten a lot wider, recording our conversations and movements in a surprising amount of places. And it is only going to get worse.
Back in the day, the best form of investigation involved wearing fake mustaches and using telephoto lenses to spy on gullible suspects. Fast forward to 2016 and things have taken a completely different turn. Big brother has dropped the archaic techniques and adopted a different approach: data fusion intelligence. For over a decade now, professional spies have been able to search stores of public and nonpublic records – including photographs of your car, DMV records, known addresses, etc. – and compress them into comprehensive reports as cheap as $10. When this information is combined with the sort of stuff marketers know about you, like what you spend on groceries, which politicians you donate to, and whether it’s weird you got home late last night, it can build up into a portrait of your life with the ability to predict your actions.
IDI – a data fusion intelligence company that is just one year old in the market – is the first to consolidate and weaponize all this information for its clients. Through a massive data repository, advanced system architecture , and proprietary linking technology, idiCORE provides practical intelligence to support legislative compliance, identify verification, due diligence, investigations, fraud detection and prevention, and debt recovery, among others. It combines public records with behavioral, demographic, and purchasing data, which include leading credit header data, as well as private and proprietary sources to give intelligent insight into assets, people, and interrelationships.
Derek Dubner, the company CEO, was quoted saying that the system does not wait for requests from customers, having already build a profile of every American adult. This includes young people who are particularly hard to add into conventional databases that are only limited to index transactions, like that 21 year old lad still living with his mom and dad.
Dubner says that these personal profiles comprise all known email addresses, phone numbers, and addresses; present and previous vehicles owned; every piece of property ever sold or purchased, as well as related mortgages; neighbors’ names and phone numbers; hunting permits; voter registration; and criminal citations, including speeding tickets. The reports also take into account car photos captured by private companies, utilizing automated license plate readers to help Private Investigators bust alibis or surveil people.
IDI also operates two coupon websites: samplesandsavings.com and allamericansavings.com, which collect behavioral and purchasing data. Once you sign up for samplesandsavings.com for instance, you are asked for your home address, birthday, and email address – information that’s easily linkable to your idiCORE profile. In addition, the website asks if you suffer from depression, diabetes, asthma, or arthritis, apparently to help customize its discounts.
Industry analysts and users alike say the inclusion of behavioral and purchasing data to typical data fusion beats rival systems when it comes to capabilities – as well as creepiness. Information sent to the cloud remains there indefinitely, and unsatisfactory photos of you derived from your profile are slowly filled in with time.
When logging into any database like IDI, a PI is inclined to choose a permissible use for searches according to U.S privacy laws. While the industry is overseen by The Federal Trade Commission, PI companies are expected to monitor themselves, given that a midsize company can run several thousand searches in a month.
Regardless of this, Dubner suggests that most Americans have nothing to fear. He says that idiCORE use this information for such purposes as nabbing a terrorism or fraud suspect, or finding a missing person. Like most of the data fusion industry, IDI can be traced back to a self-taught programmer and former cocaine smuggler known as Hank Asher, who began compiling sets of public information from federal and state governments back in the early ‘90s. After 9/11, law enforcement became more interested in commercial databases, and more data and money began raining down, according to Julia Angwin, a reporter who summarized the industry in her book, Dragnet Nation in 2014.
Asher passed away in 2013, leading his company (known as THE LAST ONE OR TLO) to be acquired by credit agency TransUnion for $154million and the exit of his disciples, among them Dubner. The latter eventually joined hands with one of Asher’s former business partners, Michael Brauser, and Phillip Frost, a billionaire health care investor. In May 2015, the partners rebranded their database venture to IDI, after a series of mergers and purchases.
Besides selling databases to big PIs (think Control Risks, Kroll), government agencies, debt collectors, and law firms, IDI says that it is also pitching to consumer marketers. The company, which has about two hundred overall employees, accrued up to $40 million revenue in its latest quarter, with 2,800 users signing up for idiCORE during the first month of release. The company’s database is growing too. In December last year, Frost helped endorse a $100 million acquisition of Fluent (a marketing profiler), which is estimated to June for a reported 21 million dollars in stock.
The company may need Frost’s extensive bank account for a while. The 3 favorite databases in the PI industry are owned by media giants Thomson Reuters and Reed Elsevier, as well as TransUnion. The chairman of the World Association of Detectives board, Chuck McLaughlin, says there is no shortage, adding that the longer you are in business, the bigger the data record you have, and the better the results.
The bottom line: the marketing databases from IDI may help Private Investigators predict people's next moves or digitally look into their medicine cabinets or personal cars.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker