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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Ethnic Profiling In Junk Mail II

In an October 2001, article titled, “Ethnic Profiling: A Rational and Moral Framework,” by Robert A. Levy, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies for the Cato Institute, he reports on a then Gallup poll which revealed that 60% of Americans wanted Arabs to be subjected to more intensive screening at airports. Of course, this was less than a month after 9/11. He quickly raises the question of whether any ethnic or racial profiling should ever be justified.

And then in August of this year, Ralph Hostetter’s piece, “Ethnic Profiling,” on CNSNEWS.COM, takes the ACLU to task for attempting to organize the Far Left, ultra liberals, against such targeted, ethnic profiling. The ACLU objects because terrorist acts such as Oklahoma City, the Atlanta Olympics, even a Taliban insurgent, were all Anglo-Christian Americans. But Hostetter apparently still feels this weakens the U.S. fight against terrorism and puts our citizens in jeopardy.

Levy believes, …”we must defeat without abandoning the liberties that set us apart from every other country in the world.” He goes on to call for “logic, not emotion,” “evidence, not rumor,” and …”a structured approach that weighs the competing interests rationally and morally.”

On the other hand, Hostetter states, “It is politically stupid for Americans who are so easily identified on an ethnic basis not to use ethnic profiling against our sworn enemies in the interests of our own protection.” He goes on, “Ethnic profiling works. If ethnic profiling is but one viable tool in the war against international terrorism, it must be used to the utmost.”

Two somewhat opposing views, but each with a certain degree of substance. We must defend America but we must not take away or infringe upon the civil rights of the people. And, under no circumstances should we be allowed to invade the privacy of any home or individual without confirmed provocation.

Keeping both of these positions in mind, let’s continue where we left off in my last post with the parade of ethnic lists that prevail in the junk mail industry.

Ethnic Lists & Marketing, LLC of Scottsdale, AZ, has a list called “Arab-American/Muslim-American Doctors.” There are 6,431 nationwide. Here’s one from Ethnic Technologies, LLC of South Hackensack, NJ, “Arabic Prime Prospects.” They also have “Turkish Speaking Households.” Three more from ClientLogic: “Ethnic Clubs & Organizations,” Islamic Households by Occupation,” and “Islamic Lifestyle Index” which identifies Islamic homes with guns and ammunition.

There’s an ethnic database of e-mail addresses from List Services Direct in Leonia, NY, and a huge ethnic masterfile of millions of names with added personal data from Focus USA, Hackensack, NJ. All of the smaller lists have some personal data available. Items include age of adults and children, telephone number, income, occupation, credit card usage, length of residence, language spoken, investments, education, vehicle information, frequent travelers, and, my favorite, “people interested in Middle East politics and the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

Some of the major magazines are also very aggressive in this area. Entrepreneur, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, the Time Inc. Group, Hearst Magazines (Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, Popular Mechanics and Redbook, to name a few), and Meredith Magazines including Better Homes & Gardens and Ladies Home Journal. All have ethnic selections on lists that range in size from 500 thousand to over 30 million, the latter being the Time Inc. Group.

But the “mother” of all ethnic lists comes from Experian, also one of the three credit report providers, covering 43 different ethnic origins, and including 84 million individuals. That’s 28% of the total population. In addition to age, income, occupation, education, etc., here’s what Experian also knows about these households: whether they are business owners; number of children and their gender; wealth rating; and their summarized credit statistics.

As I indicated in my last post on “Ethnic Profiling In Junk Mail,” the real purpose of amassing all this data into lists and databases is to make more money from the sale of the names and personal information. Which is OK, if the name-holders were getting their fair share. Ethnic names range in price from 7 cents to 16 cents, the high side being just over the average of 15 cents.

As a part of the $4 billion made annually from the sale of consumers’ names and personal data, ethnic lists probably don’t represent a major contribution…yet. But considering the federal government’s recent habits of using data brokers as major investigative tools, can that time for typical overspending in this field by the feds, accompanied by humongous privacy abuses, be far away?

Read all about this in Rebecca Carr’s article, “Government employing brokers as data posse,” taken from the Palm Beach Post-Cox News Service. She reports that federal agencies still use companies like ChoicePoint and Seisint Inc. (LexisNexis) despite activist and lawmaker concerns over their recent data breaches and about this potential invasion of our privacy. You can only assume from this that we do not ever learn from our mistakes.

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