t first glance it seemed innocent enough – “World Check – Reducing Risk Through Intelligence“.
Nothing sinister here, I thought.
After all, we’d all agree that risk is bad and therefore reducing that risk must be a good thing, right?
So, in that frame of mind, I looked around the World Check website and clicked on their Product Link to see how these guys have managed to “reduce the risk” that they so proudly claim in their company tagline.
I was also really curious to see what risk they were reffering to?
Well, after a little reading, it turns out, the risk that World Check is reffering to, is the risk of terrorism and the product that claims to reduce this risk is called ‘Passport-Check’.
What ‘Passport-Check’ does, “is verify the authenticity of machine-readable passports and identity documents.”
What ‘Passport-Check’ also does, according to World-Check’s own literature, is take the process of Identity Verification – one step further:
“…Would it not make sense to verify people’s identities and at the same time cross-check them against the market-leading database of heightened risk individuals and entities? World-Check is the answer. Passport-Check is offered free of charge to all our Online subscribers – it has been embedded into World-Check’s system so that when checking the authenticity of an ID-document, users are simultaneously running a search against World-Check’s proprietary database. In a matter of seconds the results will show whether the ID-document is authentic and whether the passport holder is profiled in World-Check.”
Honestly, when I read that, it literally sent a chill down my spine.
Has September 11 caused us to so completely overreact to the threat of terrorism that we’ve unknowingly created an environment that has spawned a new business industry sector for the categorizing of people?
And if this is indeed an unfortunate reality of our new global landscape, should privately-owned companies or corporations control the selling of that information?
Now I was really curious and honestly, kind of scared – Who the hell is “World Check” and more importantly who are their clients?
[section label=”The Marketing Of Intelligence” anchor=”The Marketing Of Intelligence”]
The Marketing Of Intelligence
I looked for an ‘About Us’ page, ‘Company Profile’ or something similar, but there was nothing on the site.
Their ‘Contact’ page was a basic online form – no help there.
Eventually, I found this interesting piece of information:
“Over 2,000 institutions, including 45 of the world’s 50 largest financial institutions and hundreds of government agencies, rely on the World-Check database of known heightened-risk individuals and businesses to efficiently screen their customers, associates, transactions and employees for potential risk. This highly-structured database is updated daily in real-time by World-Check’s international, research team and is derived from hundreds of thousands of public sources. It is this unprecedented commitment to ongoing research that has established World-Check as the industry standard. No other service replicates the quality of intelligence in this market-pioneering database.”
Wow! The Marketing of Intelligence!
Now, there’s a tagline!
I had to find out more about World Check… and since there was no other pertinent company related information on the site, I had to look elsewhere.
According to Wikipedia, World Check is a “Privately-Owned UK organization that is recognized for their ‘Open-Source Intelligence Database’ which contains detailed profiles on terrorists and those who finance terrorism, money launderers, fraudsters, politically exposed persons and many others. This database is very widely used in the financial community including the financial intelligence units… In addition World Check is used by many government (immigration, security, intelligence, police) and international agencies including the United Nations”
Upon some further research, it turns out that World Check is owned by South African David Leppan and was founded in London in the wake of the City banking scandal over billions looted from Nigeria by then ruler Sani Abacha in 2000.
What World Check was basically set up to do was to provide to banks and other financial institutions a list of potential business risks or liabilities so they woudn’t fall victims to such scams and pottentially tarnish their reputations and future earnings.
By using their ‘Open-Source Intelligence Database’, (which has nothing at all to do with the ‘Open Source Community’ or ‘Open Source Software’ that you might of heard of on the web) – in this case, Open Source just consists of information that is Openly or Overtly attained or collected, World Check managed to corner the financial industry sector.
After 9/11 however, World Check saw a golden opportunity to expand their domain into the political realm as well.
[section label=”Analyzing Intent” anchor=”Analyzing Intent”]
World Check claimed to have 15 of the 19 September 11th Plane Hijackers in their database prior to the attack.
With this announcemnt, World Check’s own reputation and importance in World affairs was firmly cemented.
Even after OffShore Alert exposed this claim to be a complete scam, World Check continued to expand its reach to where they are now regarded as industry leaders in a new field called ‘Structured Intelligence’.
Coupled with their industry leadership in the promotion of PEP (Politically Exposed Pesons) Compliance technology and KYC (Know Your Customers) Business Solutions, David Leppan and World Check have pretty much cornered the market of the merchandising of Personal Information.
I was suddenly reminded of the Steven Spielberg movie “Minority Report” that depicted a world (in the not too-distant future) where a police agency monitored society and acted preemptively anytime a crime was about to take place.
A world where your intent to commit a crime was proof of guilt.
In the movie, 3 seers or visionaries were imbued with this all knowing power of ‘foresight’ and they telepathically sent a warning signal to the social database which alerted the police as to where and when to act whenever a crime was about to occur.
In our world it seems, World Check is playing that role.
They gather the information. They categorize the data. They sell it to interested parties.
Think about it.
If you encounter some civic problem or have an issue with your local branch of government and decide to voice your dissent or frustration, the possibility exists that your name will be placed in a shared database that can aversely effect your possible job opportunities, resident status, loan requests, travel destinations and worse…
The anonimity of the individual is slowly being erased, or should I say, deleted.
I used to believe that all the talk of ‘globalization’, ‘national id cards’, ‘one-world government’, ‘new world order’ was just a collective hightened sense of paranoia caused by the 9/11 tragedy.
I’m not so sure anymore.