Predicting Corporate Intelligence Agencies in the 1960s

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Media Outlet: War on the Rocks

Brian Nussbaum wrote for War on the Rocks about the privatization of intelligence and Bill Fair’s prediction of a “corporate CIA":

The recent tumult around the emergence of a dossier suggesting salacious things about President Donald Trump has cast light on a series of for-profit intelligence firms with names like “Orbis International” and “Fusion GPS.” Such organizations are part of a huge industry providing information, analysis, and “decision advantage” for companies, investors, political parties, and often government agencies. It is a giant industry, and one that was predicted with remarkable insight in 1966.
Bill Fair
Every time one of us applies for a car loan, a mortgage, or myriad other modern conveniences, we agree to a credit check. One of the major providers of this service is Fair, Isaac and Company (NYSE: FICO), which provides the ubiquitous “FICO score,” one of the analytic building blocks of modern consumer lending. Earl Isaac and William “Bill” Fair founded this California-based company in 1956. Fair, an engineer, with degrees from Cal Tech, Stanford, and Berkeley, was a pioneer in “statistically-based decision processes and automated processing technologies.” He was also ahead of his time in thinking about something else: private sector intelligence.


Brian Nussbaum is a fellow in New America’s Cybersecurity Initiative. He is an assistant professor of homeland security and cybersecurity in the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity at the University at Albany.