Six Degrees of Corporations

Fingerprinting the Private Sector

Currently there is no effective unique identifier system for companies that operate within the U.S. This has huge implications for corporate accountability, disclosure in political giving, evaluation of systemic risk in financial markets, oversight of government contracts and more.

Play with the visualization below to see how messy our current system is, read an overview of the major federal systems or find a case study of one country that has successfully overcome this problem.

Find a Company

The main corporate identifier that the federal government uses for grants and contracting is the DUNS number. There are several problems with DUNS numbers, but one issue is that their usage by the federal government is inconsistent.

Often, one company's DUNS number is mistakenly entered for another company's DUNS number. Or, if two companies are on the same contract, only one of their DUNS numbers might be recorded. In order to show how tangled these connections are, we've created the visualization below.

To see all the possible names and DUNS numbers associated with a company name in USASpending.gov, enter that company's name in the search box.


No connections were found. This may be because the company you searched for didn't do business with the federal government or because that business was conducted under an alternate name.
The data may contain more connections than can be shown here. However your computer is having trouble drawing the graph, so the search has been stopped. It may run better if you close other applications.

The graph is created by searching the USASpending.gov database for contracts and grants that associate a name with a DUNS number or vice versa, repeating until it fails to find any new associations. Inaccuracies may result from name variations, a corporate restructuring not reflected in the D&B data or from simple mis-use of DUNS numbers. Contract and grant details are available from USASpending.gov.

examining a finger print