Think the NSA's bad? They're late to the game; "Surveillance Valley" has data on just about every adult in the country - and it's all for sale.
No source of information is sacred: transaction records are bought in bulk from stores, retailers and merchants; magazine subscriptions are recorded; food and restaurant preferences are noted; public records and social networks are scoured and scraped. What kind of prescription drugs did you buy? What kind of books are you interested in? Are you a registered voter? To what non-profits do you donate? What movies do you watch? Political documentaries? Hunting reality TV shows?
That info is combined and kept up to date with address, payroll information, phone numbers, email accounts, social security numbers, vehicle registration and financial history. And all that is sliced, isolated, analyzed and mined for data about you and your habits in a million different ways.
One of the largest data brokers, InfoUSA, was started by Vin Gupta back in the 1970s, quickly growing into a company worth $500 million. Its reach has expanded into at least 9 countries. Gupta was forced out around 5 years ago in a battle with shareholders:
In 2008, Gupta was sued by InfoUSA shareholders for inappropriately using corporate funds. Shareholders accused of Gupta of illegally funneling corporate money to fund an extravagant lifestyle and curry political favor. According to the Associated Press, the lawsuit questioned why Gupta used private corporate jets to fly the Clintons on personal and campaign trips, and why Gupta awarded Bill Clinton a $3.3 million consulting gig.
But as big as InfoUSA (now Infogroup) is, there several even larger brokers. And the most pervasive and intrusive of them all?
Snowden may consider himself a hero for stirring things up over NSA operations, but he didn't even scratch the surface.