Positive Aspects of Information Brokers – by “Christian C”

Garindan - An Information Broker
Garindan - An Information Broker

In looking at the threat to privacy posed by information brokers indexing information and making it easily available, one might wonder whether there are any positive aspects to the business. Since Zabasearch, one of these sorts of information brokers, claims to just be a search engine that searches public records, one could first turn to Google to try and learn about the “positive aspects of information brokers.” Unfortunately one would be disappointed, if one were to search with quotes one would find zero results (presumably more now that this post uses that as a title), and without quotes around one million results. However looking through the first group of search results one finds no entries that actually appear to be about the business of selling other people’s personal information. There are things about real estate brokers, and how to create computer software to help search libraries and even information about information brokers, but nothing about why they are a good thing.

One next might go examine the website of such an information broker, again one might choose Zabasearch. There one will find a nice frequently asked questions page, discussing the fact that they are simply a powerless search engine without the power to adjust the information in their index, as it is all from public records (which ignores the fact that for a fee they offer the expedited service of blocking records, and if a record can be blocked it could equally be modified). There is also a  link to findlaw.com claiming to be reviewed by them, this link looks at the regrettable fact that Zabasearch appears to be legal (given the character of the link the editors of findlaw.com found it necessary to make it clear that they are not associated with Zabasearch, nor do they endorse it in anyway).

At this point the immediately obvious places to look for the positive aspects of these businesses have been exhausted, so one must attempt to discover them for oneself. If one leaves aside free market type arguments that all information should be as easy to find as possible in order to let the market function, and assume that privacy generally is something that should be protected, then there should be some benefit to these services. The most obvious of these benefits is that by making public records easily searchable, the public is made aware of the vast quantities of information available as part of the public record that one might not necessarily want to be publicly available, or at least want restrictions placed on the aggregating of the information. However, this is not generally a good reason, since the information brokers are a substantial cause of the problem. Another justification is that by making finding information easier and cheaper those who are unable to afford the services of private investigators or the time to search records themselves are able to access the information so as to pursue things like child support payments which the public sector does not necessarily have the time and resources to pursue. The counter point to the last is that it also makes it easier for less sophisticated stalkers or abusive former spouses to track down others.

Overall it seems that there are few positive aspects to the existence of information brokers.

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