RealNews

Firm in Florida Election Fiasco Earns Millions from Files on Foreigners

A data-gathering company that was embroiled in the Florida 2000 election fiasco is being paid millions of dollars by the Bush administration to collect detailed personal information on the populations of foreign countries, enraging several governments who say the records may have been illegally obtained. US government purchasing documents show that the company, ChoicePoint, received at least $11m (£6.86m) from the department of justice last year to supply data – mainly on Latin Americans – that included names and addresses, occupations, dates of birth, passport numbers and “physical description”. Even tax records and blood groups are reportedly included. Nicaraguan police have raided two offices suspected of providing the information. The revelations threaten to shatter public trust in electoral institutions, especially in Mexico, where the government has begun an investigation. The controversy is not the first to engulf ChoicePoint. The company’s subsidiary, Database Technologies, was responsible for bungling an overhaul of Florida’s voter registration records, with the result that thousands of people, disproportionately black, were disenfranchised in the 2000 election. Had they been able to vote, they might have swung the state, and thus the presidency, for Al Gore, who lost in Florida by a few hundred votes. Legal experts in the US and Mexico said ChoicePoint could be liable for prosecution if those who supplied it with the personal information could be proven to have broken local laws. That raises the possibility that any person whose data was accessible to American officials could take legal action against the US government. Full Story

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