All posts by Les Rosen

October 2010 Jobs Report Better than Expected with Private Sector Employment Rising 159,000 and Increase of 151,000 Jobs Overall

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

The U.S. economy added 151,000 jobs overall in October 2010, and private-sector payroll employment rose by 159,000 over the month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.

According to the BLS report – “THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION – OCTOBER 2010” – nonfarm payroll employment increased by 151,000 in October and has risen by 874,000 since December 2009.

In addition, private-sector payroll employment rose by 159,000 over the month, the best figures since April 2010, and employment in the private sector has risen by 1.1 million since December 2009.

However, despite the fact that jobs were added to the economy, the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.6 percent in October – and has been essentially unchanged since May 2010 – while the number of unemployed persons was also little changed at 14.8 million during the month.

The total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 151,000 in October, reflecting job gains in mining and a number of service-providing industries. More specifically:

  • Mining: Employment in Mining continued to trend up with a gain of 8,000 job over the month, and has added 88,000 jobs since October 2009.
  • Professional and business services: Employment in temporary help services increased by 35,000 in October, and has added 451,000 jobs since September 2009. Employment in computer systems design and related services increased by 8,000 in October and has risen by 53,000 since June 2009.
  • Health care: Health care services continued to add jobs with a gain of 24,000 in October, which was in line with the average increase of 20,000 over the prior 12 months.
  • Retail trade: Retail trade employment rose by 28,000 in October, including an increase of 6,000 in automobile dealers and 5,000 in electronics and appliance stores. Overall, employment in retail trade has expanded by 128,000 since December 2009.
  • Food and Services: The food services industry has added 143,000 jobs since December 2009, but within Leisure and Hospitality, a job loss of 26,000 jobs in arts, entertainment, and recreation in October offset a gain of 24,000 jobs in food services and drinking places employment.

Elsewhere in the private sector, employment in manufacturing, construction, wholesale trade, transportation, information, and financial activities showed little change in October.

Government employment overall was also little changed in October, although employment in local government – excluding education – decreased by 14,000 over the month and has fallen by 123,000 over the past 12 months.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the company that wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR is recognized as Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) Accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Source:
http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

Bill Restricting New Jersey Employers from Requiring Employment Credit Checks on Job Applicants Moves Closer to Law

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

A bill that would restrict employers in New Jersey from requiring credit checks as a condition of employment is advancing toward law, according to a news release from the Assembly Democrats web site.

Bill A-3238 – sponsored by Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos Jr. and Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker – prohibits an employer in New Jersey from requiring a credit check on a current or prospective employee as a condition of employment, unless the employer is required to do so by law or reasonably believes an employee has engaged in a specific activity that is financial in nature and constitutes a violation of law.

Under the bill, credit checks would be allowed for:

  • A managerial position which involves setting the financial direction or control of the business;
  • A position which involves access to customers’, employees’, or employers’ personal belongings or financial information, other than information customarily provided in a retail transaction;
  • A position which involves a fiduciary responsibility to the employer, including, but not limited to, the authority to issue payments, transfer money or enter into contracts or involves leases of real property;
  • A position which provides an expense account for travel; or
  • A law enforcement officer for a law enforcement agency in this state.

The bill also prohibits an employer from requiring a prospective employee to waive or limit any protection granted under the bill as a condition of applying for or receiving an offer of employment.

In addition, the bill provides for the imposition of civil penalties in an amount not to exceed $5,000 for the first violation, and $10,000 for each subsequent violation, collectible by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development.

As reported earlier on the ESR News Blog, credit checks for employment purposes have become a controversial subject as job seekers look for work in a tough economy are caught in a “Catch-22” situation where they have bad credit because they cannot get a job but cannot get a job because they have bad credit.

As a result, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the EEOC held a public Commission meeting on October 20 to hear testimony on the growing use of credit histories of job applicants as selection criteria during employment background screening to see if the practice is discriminatory in any way. More information on the EEOC meeting may be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/10-20-10/index.cfm.

For more information about employment credit checks, visit ESR News Blog section on ‘Credit Reports’ at http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/tag/credit-reports/.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the company that wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR is recognized as Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) Accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Sources:
http://www.assemblydems.com/Article.asp?ArticleID=3252
http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/A3500/3238_I1.HTM
http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/10-20-10b.cfm
http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/10-20-10/index.cfm

ESR NEWS ALERT: Massachusetts CORI Reform Law Prohibits Employers from Asking About Criminal Convictions on Initial Job Applications Effective November 4, 2010

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

Starting November 4, 2010, employers in Massachusetts will no longer be able to ask about convictions on “initial” job applications because of new legislation that prohibits employers from asking questions on initial written job applications about criminal offender record information, which includes criminal charges, arrests, and incarceration.

As previously reported on the ESR News Blog, the new law overhauls the Commonwealth’s Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) law and contains several provisions that will affect the way employers use the criminal histories of prospective and current employees and impact Massachusetts employers performing criminal background checks on job applicants and employees.

While the new law does not prevent employers from obtaining criminal histories of job applicants or employees contained in the CORI database, under the CORI reform law those records will no longer contain:

  • Felony convictions closed for more than ten years, whether convictions occurred more than ten years ago or individuals were released more than ten years ago.
  • Misdemeanor convictions closed for more than five years.

In addition, the new law also includes the following provisions:

  • Employers that decide not to hire applicants or take adverse actions based on criminal histories in CORI reports must first give applicants copies of the reports.
  • Employers conducting five (5) or more criminal background checks per year must maintain a written criminal offender record information policy.
  • Employers are prohibited from maintaining CORI records of former employees or unsuccessful job applicants for more than seven years from the last date of employment or from the date of the decision not to hire the job applicant.

After the initial application of the CORI reform law provision which restricts questions by employers about criminal history on initial written job applications takes effect on November 4, 2010, employers that continue to ask questions on initial written applications about felony or misdemeanor convictions after that date may be subject to liability under the new law, experts warn.

For more information, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the company that wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR is recognized as Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) Accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Sources:
http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2010/Chapter256
http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2010/10/05/new-massachusetts-cori-reform-law-prohibits-employers-from-asking-about-criminal-convictions-on-initial-job-applications-starting-november-4/

SHRM Tells EEOC Credit Checks Are Legitimate Background Screening Tool at Recent Public Meeting

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

According to a news story on the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) website – “SHRM: Credit Checks Are Legitimate Screening Tool” – a representative for SHRM told the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) during a public hearing on October 20, 2010 that the federal government should not eliminate an employer’s use of credit histories to help make decisions about job candidates.

The representative, in prepared comments, said that “SHRM believes there is a compelling public interest in enabling our nation’s employers – whether that employer is in the government or the private sector – to assess the skills, abilities, and work habits of potential hires.” In addition, the representative said credit history is one of many factors – including education, experience and certifications – that employers use “to narrow that applicant pool to those who are most qualified.”

The SHRM representative pointed out Human Resources (HR) typically conducts a background check on the job finalist or group of finalists before making a job offer, and that background check might include checking personal references, criminal history, and credit history depending on the employer and the position to be filled.
 
Citing the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) of 1970 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the representative said SHRM believes “employees already have significant federal protection for the misuse of background checks.”
 
Recent SHRM Research Department data on the use of employer background screening practices was also referenced at the meeting. Among the findings:

  • Just 13 percent of employers surveyed conducted credit checks on all job candidates while another 47 percent consider credit history for candidates of select jobs.
  • Employers generally conducted credit checks only for certain positions, including jobs of financial or fiduciary responsibilities (91 percent), senior executive positions (46 percent) and positions with access to confidential employee information (34 percent).
  • Among employers that used credit checks, 57 percent initiated them only after making a contingent job offer and 30 percent initiated them after the job interview.
  • Four out of 10 employers surveyed did not conduct credit checks.

The EEOC heard public comment from SHRM and others to determine the extent of the practice of using credit checks during the background screening of job candidates, the effectiveness of its intended purpose, and its potential impact on different populations.

More information about the EEOC public meeting can be found at: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/10-20-10/index.cfm

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR is recognized as Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) Accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Source:
http://www.shrm.org/about/news/Pages/LegitimateScreeningTool.aspx?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+shrm%2Fnews%2Fhr+(SHRM+Online%3A+HR+News)

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) President Lester Rosen to Speak at 2010 Pre-employment Screeners Conference to be Held in Florida from November 7-10

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

Safe hiring expert Lester Rosen, founder and President of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), the company that literally wrote the book on background checks, will be the keynote speaker at the 2010 Pre-employment Screeners Conference to be held at the Sheraton Sand Key Hotel in Clearwater, Florida from Sunday, November 7, 2010 to Wednesday, November 10, 2010.

Rosen – an attorney at law and author of “The Safe Hiring Manual – How To Keep Criminals, Terrorists, and Imposters Out of Your Workplace,” the first comprehensive guide to background checks – will speak about “Trends, Legal Developments and Best Practices for Due Diligence in Hiring and Employment Screening Background Checks” as part of an all-Star panel of nationally known attorneys and leading pre-employment screening industry experts.
 
For more information about this conference for both pre-employment screeners and Human Resources (HR) Professionals, visit http://thebackgroundinvestigator.com/Conferences/clearwaterProgram.asp.

Topics of discussion for the 2010 Pre-employment Screeners Conference include:

  • The Art of Access to Public Records
  • Becoming a Category of One
  • Ding Happens! How to Quickly Make the Most of Whatever Life Throws at You!
  • Industry Update- What a Year!
  • Using Facebook, MySpace and Other Social Networks for Pre-employment Screening
  • International updates
  • 5 Billion Versus 1: How to Stay Safe in a Dangerous World – Hacking 101
  • Background Checks Today From the Eyes of an Expert Witness

Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is dedicated to promoting a safe workplace for both employers and employees. ESR was rated the top U.S. employment screening firm in the first independent study of the industry. The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) formally recognizes Employment Screening Resources as BSCC Accredited by successfully proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). For more information about Employment Screening Resources (ESR), please visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Contract Worker Arrested for Disorderly Conduct after Incident at Elementary School in South Carolina

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

A story from Greenwood County, South Carolina shows why background checks should be run on all workers with access to schools, including contractors and sub-contractors, and not just full time employees.

According to a report on the News Channel 7 website at WSPA.com, a contract worker at a Greenwood County, S.C. school was arrested for disorderly conduct when he allegedly yelled and cursed at police after students complained about his behavior. According to a police report, students at the school claimed the accused man made sexual gestures and asked the children to give him a hug.

The 22-year-old man – a subcontractor working at the school – was charged with public disorderly conduct for allegedly cursing at deputies and school officials while they kicked him off campus.

In their report, News Channel 7 learned that, according to a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) background check, the man had been accused with sexual misconduct with a child under the age of 16 and sexual misconduct with a child under the age of 11. Although not convicted on those charges, the man had been convicted of aggravated assault.

Contract workers at schools in South Carolina are not required to submit to any kind of background checks since they are not employed by the state.

However, there are background check rules in place for school workers, according to information provided by the South Carolina Department of Education:

  • All school employees must have a SLED check.
  • Teachers and other certified positions must have SLED and FBI fingerprint checks done.
  • Volunteers must be checked on sexual predator web site.
  • Contract workers are not required to submit to any sort of background since they are not employed by the state.

To ensure a safe workplace (which can include schools), employers following best practices guidelines should run background checks on all employees – from full-time to part-time and from contractors to sub-contractors.

For more information on background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR is recognized as Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) Accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Source:
http://www2.wspa.com/news/2010/oct/28/6/contract-workers-accused-trying-lure-students-ar-1023276/

Senator Sends Letters to Social Networking Sites Facebook and MySpace after Wall Street Journal Reports Privacy Breach

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, has sent letters to the heads of two popular social networking sites – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and MySpace President Michael Jones – requesting more information about privacy breaches recently reported in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), according to a press release from the Senator that includes the text of both letters.

Senator Rockefeller states in both letters that he is troubled by a recent Wall Street Journal investigation report that revealed the practice of Facebook, MySpace, and affiliated applications (or “apps”) transferring user IDs and user personal information to marketing firms, tracking companies, and third-party advertisers without their knowledge. As reported by the WSJ:

  • Third-party applications have transferred Facebook users’ personal information to marketing firms, data brokers and tracking companies. This violates Facebook’s explicitly stated privacy policy.
  • MySpace has shared user IDs with third-party advertisers. This has happened after users clicked on advertisements or accessed affiliated third-party applications.

Senator Rockefeller is quoted in the press release saying that these reports “raise serious questions about social networking sites’ commitment to enforcing their own privacy policies on behalf of consumers” and that, as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, he intends to “find out whether today’s social networking sites are adequately protecting their users’ personal information.”

In the letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Senator Rockefeller requests answers – with specificity – to the following questions:

  • 1) How does Facebook enforce its Privacy Policy relating to affiliated application operators and websites? What logistical protocols are in place to promote maximum compliance? What resources, including the number of personnel, does Facebook dedicate to monitoring and enforcing application operators’ compliance with its Privacy Policy?
  • 2) What penalties does Facebook impose on application operators and websites that violate the company’s Privacy Policy? Are offending application operators allowed to continue to do business with Facebook?
  • 3) Does Facebook take steps to retrieve information from application operators found in violation of the company’s Privacy Policy?
  • 4) The Journal article quotes a Facebook official that asserts the company has “taken steps… to significantly limit RapLeaf’s ability to use any Facebook-related data.” What exactly does this mean?
  • 5) According to the Journal article, there appears to be a pattern of privacy infractions involving Facebook applications. Specifically, what other past problems has Facebook encountered with regard to applications, and what steps did Facebook take to rectify them? Are these applications still available on Facebook’s platform?
  • 6) To the extent that personal data has been shared in violation of Facebook’s Privacy Policy, what steps has Facebook taken to notify individual users as to the specific information that has been mishandled, and who has had access to that information?

In the letter to MySpace President Michael Jones, Senator Rockefeller requests answers – again, with specificity – to the following questions:

  • 1) Why does MySpace’s Privacy Policy place the responsibility on Members to control their personal information when interacting with affiliated apps and advertisers, when other social networking sites have more restrictive policies that better protect consumer privacy?
  • 2) Why does MySpace’s Privacy Policy assert that the company “does not control” and “cannot dictate” the actions of third-party applications on how they retrieve and use Members’ information when other social networking sites impose limits on the use of such information?
  • 3) The definition of PII is very narrow and does not capture a range of consumer information – such as user IDs – that could be used to identify MySpace Members. Please explain the rationale behind this narrow definition of PII and how it differs from personal information that is considered non-PII.
  • 4) How does MySpace reconcile the explicit terms of its own Privacy Policy with the Journal’s report that the company “had pledged to discontinue the practice of sending personal data” to ad networks and similarly prohibited third-party application operators from doing so?
  • 5) If MySpace has publicly pledged to prohibit such information transfers, how has this prohibition been enforced and what plans does MySpace have in place to effectively enforce its policy in the future?

The protection of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of individuals – such as names, birthdates, addresses, identification such as Social Security Numbers (SSN) and driver’s licenses, and financial data – should be reflected in the Privacy Policy of every company.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) does not re-sell or “offshore” Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of individuals and all domestic background checks are performed exclusively in the United States. Once Personally Identifiable Information is offshored and leaves the U.S., the PII is beyond the reach of U.S. privacy laws. A large number of background screening firms have also taken a position against offshoring Personally Identifiable Information at http://www.concernedcras.com/no_offshoring.htm.

For more information about Employment Screening Resources (ESR), visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR is recognized as Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) Accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Source:
http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=c26b5c34-cf19-4d8a-93aa-d9a29b749337

Connecticut Receiving $2 Million in Federal Funds for Caregiver Background Checks to Protect Elderly and Disabled

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell has announced that the state is receiving a $2 million federal health care grant to design a comprehensive caregiver background check program for employees of nursing homes and other long-term care agencies to further strengthen protections for elderly and disabled residents.

According to a news release from the Governor, Connecticut is one of six states to receive the federal grant through the Affordable Care Act to bolster protection of nursing home residents with caregiver background checks. The background check program will help identify whether job seekers have any kind of criminal history or other disqualifying information that could make them unsuitable to work directly with residents.

Governor Rell stated that the funds “will allow Connecticut to have one of the most comprehensive background checks in the nation.” The Connecticut state Departments of Public Health (DPH) and Public Safety (DPS) will work together on the initiative.

The new law set aside $160 million for the program, which is to run through September 2012. The other five states awarded grants in addition for Connecticut are Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Missouri, and Rhode Island. 

The national background check for each prospective direct patient care employee will include a history search of both state and federal criminal records, abuse and neglect registries, and databases such as the Nurse Aide Registry. Long-term care facilities or providers covered under the new program include:

  • Nursing facilities,
  • Home health agencies,
  • Hospice providers,
  • Long-term care hospitals,
  • Intermediate care facilities for persons with mental retardation,
  • Adult day care, and
  • Personal care assistants.

For more information about caregiver background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR is recognized as Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) Accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Source:
http://www.ct.gov/governorrell/cwp/view.asp?A=3872&Q=467624

New Poll Shows Two Out of Three Americans Feel At Risk for Identity Theft

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

A September 2010 web poll from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) testing the attitudes of Americans toward identity theft revealed that 66 percent – or two out of three people – of more than 1,300 respondents felt at risk for identity theft.

In an October NFCC press release, a spokesperson for the NFCC stated that in recent years “identity theft has claimed more than 10 million victims per year, and has been the top complaint to the Federal Trade Commission for the last five years in a row.”

According to the press release, the actual survey question – “Q: I don’t think I’m at risk of being a victim of identity theft because…” – and multiple choice results from the poll are as follows:

  • A. Identity theft is on the decline = 1%
  • B. My credit card company has systems in place that protect me = 9%
  • C. I don’t carry my Social Security card in my wallet = 10%
  • D. I never open emails from unknown sources = 15%
  • E. I do think I am at risk of ID theft = 66%

The NFCC’s September Financial Literacy Opinion Index was conducted via the homepage of the NFCC Web site at http://www.debtadvice.org/ from September 1 to September 30, 2010 and answered by 1,352 individuals.

To help meet the need of identity theft protection education, the NFCC – the nation’s largest and longest serving national nonprofit credit counseling organization – and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) joined together to host Protect Your Identity Week (PYIW) from October 17 to October 23, 2010 (http://www.protectyouridnow.org/).

The 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report by Javelin Strategy & Research found that the number of identity theft and fraud victims in the United States increased 12 percent to affect 11.1 million adults in 2009, while the total annual fraud amount in the country increased by 12.5 percent to $54 billion.

To read more posts from the Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News Blog tagged ‘Identity Theft,” visit http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/tag/identity-theft/.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR is recognized as Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) Accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Sources:
http://www.nfcc.org/newsroom/newsreleases/files10/FLOI_SeptemberResults.pdf
http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2010/04/01/study-finds-identity-theft-and-fraud-increased-12-percent-in-2009-affecting-over-11-million-americans/

WSJ Investigation Finds Facebook in Privacy Breach with Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of Users

 By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

A recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) investigation (see WSJ article ‘Facebook in Privacy Breach’) has found many of the most popular “apps” (applications) on the world’s most popular social networking site, Facebook.com, have been transmitting Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of tens of millions of users – such as names and names of friends – to advertising and Internet tracking companies.

After a WSJ investigation showed that personal IDs were being transmitted to third parties via “apps” – pieces of software that let Facebook’s more than 500 million users play games or share common interests with one another – a Facebook spokesman said the social networking site would take steps to “dramatically limit” the exposure of the PII of users. The WSJ found that all of the 10 most popular apps on Facebook were transmitting PII. 

According to the WSJ investigation, the information transmitted – the unique “Facebook ID” number assigned to every user on the site –is a public part of any Facebook profile that anyone can use to look up names of users even if they have set their Facebook information to be private. For those profiles set to share information with “everyone,” the Facebook ID reveals data including age, residence, job occupation, and photos.

As defined on Wikipedia.com, “Personally Identifiable Information (PII), as used in information security, refers to information that can be used to uniquely identify, contact, or locate a single person or can be used with other sources to uniquely identify a single individual. The abbreviation PII is widely accepted, but the phrase it abbreviates has four common variants based on personal, personally, identifiable, and identifying. Not all are equivalent, and for legal purposes the effective definitions vary depending on the jurisdiction and the purposes for which the term is being used.”

In addition, Personally Identifiable Information “has become much more important as information technology and the Internet have made it easier to collect PII, leading to a profitable market in collecting and reselling PII. PII can also be exploited by criminals to stalk or steal the identity of a person, or to plan a person’s murder or robbery, among other crimes. As a response to these threats, many web site privacy policies specifically address the collection of PII, and lawmakers have enacted a series of legislation to limit the distribution and accessibility of PII.”

According to Wikipedia, the following are often used for the express purpose of distinguishing individual identity, and thus are clearly PII under the definition used by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget:

  • Full name (if not common)
  • National identification number
  • IP address (in some cases)
  • Vehicle registration plate
  • Driver’s license number
  • Face, fingerprints, or handwriting
  • Credit card number
  • Digital identity
  • Birthday
  • Birthplace
  • Genetic information

The following are less often used to distinguish individual identity, because they are traits shared by many people. However, they are potentially PII, because they may be combined with other personal information to identify an individual.

  • First or last name, if common
  • Country, state, or city of residence
  • Age, especially if non-specific
  • Gender or race
  • Name of the school they attend or workplace
  • Grades, salary, or job position
  • Criminal record

For more information about PII, please visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News Blog for posts tagged ‘personally identifiable information’ at: http://www.ESRcheck.com/wordpress/tag/personally-identifiable-information/

For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Sources:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304772804575558484075236968.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personally_identifiable_information