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¿Dónde está my privacy? 

Three employees of a Mexican data-collecting company have been placed under house arrest and may be charged with treason for allegedly selling confidential information to Alpharetta-based ChoicePoint, Inc.

ChoicePoint, one of the world's largest data-mining companies, was the subject of a Dec. 4 CL story that chronicled its sale of personal information to almost 40 federal agencies. The article described how ChoicePoint's relationship with the feds may be leading to invasions of privacy. In addition to the Mexican data, ChoicePoint sells access to dossiers on almost every American to the government for criminal and terrorist investigations.

On Nov. 26, Mexican officials confirmed that Ismael Vaca Ramirez, Daniel Aguirre and Jorge Lopez -- employees of Soluciones Mercadologicas en Bases de Datos -- are being investigated for handing over information on Mexican citizens to ChoicePoint, according to Knight-Ridder news service. ChoicePoint, in turn, sold access to the Mexican data to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

CL obtained a Sept. 12, 2001, contract proposal from ChoicePoint to the INS that describes how for $1 million annually, the feds could peek at Latin American citizens' passport numbers, unlisted phone numbers, blood types and other personal info.

The memo also claims ChoicePoint "goes to great lengths to verify that the data offered in ChoicePoint products is being acquired legally."

In response to e-mailed questions, ChoicePoint Chief Marketing Officer James Lee wrote CL that the company's contract with the INS to deliver personal data on Latin Americans from 11 countries, including Mexico, expired Sept. 30. "So we no longer offer any service that can be used to verify the identity of a non-U.S. citizen, based on data from another country," Lee said.

He also claimed that ChoicePoint had given Mexican officials discs of whatever data they wanted after officials first raised concerns in May. Lee said ChoicePoint then purged that information from its databases in June.

Yet Knight-Ridder quoted a Mexican prosecutor as saying there's confusion about the exact data ChoicePoint destroyed. "We were not present at the supposed destruction," according to Maria de los Angeles Fromow Rangel.

CL's article on ChoicePoint, "Big Brother's little helper," can be found at atlanta.creativeloafing.com/2003-12-04/cover_toc.html.

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