NAPBS Executive Director Melissa Sorenson Explains How Removing Birthdate from Court Records May Have Unintended Consequences

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Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

With many courts considering the removal of identifiers such as date of birth (DOB) from public records to protect citizens from identity theft, Melissa Sorenson, Executive Director of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), has written a guest column for The Gazette entitled ‘Removing birthdate from Iowa court records could have unintended consequences’ that explains how doing this may negatively impact people seeking employment or housing.

In the opinion piece, Sorenson shows how the Iowa State Court Administration’s consideration of redacting, or “masking,” the DOB from court records could prevent background screeners hired by employers, landlords, and volunteer organizations from obtaining the information necessary to make accurate hiring and leasing decisions. Sorensen explains that “having an individual’s full DOB is a critical identifier in public record data as it helps ensure the correct data is matched to an individual.”

Sorenson writes: With thousands of people sharing the same name, full date of birth is critical in determining if a record belongs to an applicant. Furthermore, NAPBS members are trained to properly handle potentially identifying information and are subject to strict regulations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003. Our members are also regulated by a patchwork of federal, state and local rules pertaining to data security and privacy laws.

As a result of not having a DOB in a court record, Sorenson warns that “background screening reports cannot be as complete and thus cannot help promote safety in our communities.” Screeners would have to pick between “a long list of criminal records based on the limited identifiers available and risk that most of the records will not apply to the applicant, or they can choose not to include any of the records with limited information — even though that record may very well belong to the applicant.”

While Sorenson agrees that protecting the people of Iowa from identity theft is a shared goal of NAPBS and the Iowa State Court Administration, “the removal of common identifiers from court records negatively impacts the accuracy of background reports making it more difficult for Iowans to be placed for work and find housing.” She also urges courts in Iowa “to examine the unintended consequences that could arise from an otherwise well intended proposition.” The complete column is here.

Melissa Sorenson is the first dedicated Executive Director of the NAPBS. She holds a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law and is admitted to the Minnesota bar. The NAPBS – “The Voice of Screening Professionals” – represents over 730 members performing pre-employment and tenant screening across the United States and is dedicated to providing the public with safe places to live and work. For more information about the NAPBS, please visit www.napbs.com.

“Efforts to mask identifiers may be well intended, but government officials need to consider if these types of proposals can end up backfiring and doing more harm than good to the very people the government wants to protect,” explains Attorney Lester Rosen, founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a global background check firm located in the San Francisco, CA-area. Rosen was chairperson of the steering committee that founded the NAPBS and served as first co-chair.

“Consumers and employers want background reports that are accurate and fast so there is no delay in starting employment, and identifiers on public records are a critical part of that process,” adds Rosen, the author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual – The Complete Guide to Employment Screening Background Checks for Employers, Recruiters, and Jobseekers.’ “Masking identifiers may sound good in theory but the main impact may well be delaying or hampering employment opportunities.”

Founded by Rosen in 1997, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is accredited by the NAPBS for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). ESR also undergoes annual SOC 2 Type 2 audits to ensure the organization meets high standards set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) for protecting consumer information. To learn more about ESR, please visit www.esrcheck.com.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this web site is for educational purposes only.

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