Groups Warn of Privacy Risks in Employment Screening

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and PrivacyActivism submitted comments to the US Attorney General expressing concern about commercial data vendors and private employers' use of federal criminal records files for employment purposes. The comments were submitted at the request of the US Attorney General who is seeking recommendations for a report being prepared for Congress. The report to Congress is required by a 2004 law for Intelligence Reform.

Criminal Records and Getting Back into the Workforce: Six Critical Steps for Ex-offenders Trying to Get Back into the Workforce (Rosen)

For an ex-offender, a job search can become a frustrating Catch-22. Nearly every employment application will ask in some fashion if a person has a criminal record. If a person lies, then they are always at risk of being terminated upon such a criminal record being discovered. If a person is honest and admits the past misconduct, there is a risk of not getting the job.

Groups Warn of Privacy Risks in Employment Screening

Terrorist threats, workplace violence, and reported abuse of vulnerable segments of the population have contributed to a dramatic increase in criminal records checks. Advances in technology have also made criminal history checks faster, less expensive, and easy to obtain from a variety of sources.

Existing problems in the employment screening process - particularly with accuracy - can lead to chronic unemployment or dismissal from a longstanding job. The job applicant or employee has virtually no rights to have an adverse decision reconsidered, even when decisions are based on inaccurate information. Any standards for access by private employers and commercial data vendors must go beyond the current requirements of the FCRA.

Comments to the FTC on Accuracy in Background Checks and Insurance Reports

The FTC should separately undertake a review of inaccuracies in employment reports and insurance claims reports.  From our experience, job applicants and employees encounter significant problems when an erroneous criminal history is reported to an employer. Local, state and federal court records are public records that are available to anyone and are not compiled for the purpose of furnishing data to consumer reporting agencies.

Errors in Employment Background Checks: Harmful Long-Term Consequences for Individuals

It is clear to the PRC that the problems of flawed background checks is not new to the FTC. It is also our belief that this is a critical area of consumer protection that deserves the increased attention of the FTC. Our analysis of FTC data uncovered numerous instances of complaints against the same company for reporting inaccurate data, often concerning criminal activities; failure to follow FCRA requirements for limiting information reported; and difficulty in getting the misinformation corrected.

Comments to FTC on National Credit Reporting Agencies and Free Reports: Credit Reports Most People Have Never Heard Of

We urge the Commission to study national consumer reporting agencies sooner rather than later and to issue regulations giving consumers' access to free reports. In our 12-year history we have received many complaints from individuals who have been harmed or otherwise disadvantaged because of erroneous or inappropriate information in such consumer reports.

An Increase in Employee Background Checks Strains an Already Weak (Flint)

Two easily identifiable problems with the increased use of background checks are the potential for errors and past mistakes haunting people for far too long.  But, in addition to these problems, there are societal concerns about lack of privacy, ceding judgment to a computer database, and potential over-reliance on a person’s past behavior.

The Tradeoff between Privacy and Openness in Employment Screening

We have heard from several individuals who have described their experiences with background checks that retrieve wrongful criminal records. Even after they have informed the employer that the background report is in error, they've learned that it's too late. The employer has moved on to another applicant, or perhaps is so risk-averse that the employer does not want the hassle of dealing with someone with a tarnished record, even though it's erroneous.

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