By Les Rosen, Employment Screening Resources

2010 Trends in Screening Trend Four: The battle over databases will continue – the latest wrinkle is the proliferation of cheap do-it-yourself websites and even iPhone apps

An ongoing area of controversy in the screening industry is the use of commercially assembled national multi jurisdictional databases. These databases are complied from numerous sources that will sell or make data available. By no means are these databases complete and accurate, nor up-to-date.  Some results do not provide any additional identifiers beyond the first and last name.  As a result, a great many criminals would come up as “clear.” This is called a “false negative.”  These databases are practically useless in states like New York and California, two large areas.  In Texas, the criminal data is also very hit and miss.

Conversely, databases can result in a person being labeled a criminal when they are not.  That is a “false positive. 

In the hands of a professional background screening firm, these databases have significant value as an additional but secondary tool that can lead to further places to search.  However, the downside is that some employers want the database information without doing court searches, meaning that some people will be falsely labeled as criminal when they are not and some people will be falsely cleared as having no criminal record when they do.

Under the FCRA, a screening firm has the option of reporting a database search without courthouse confirmation as long as the consumer gets a notice at the same time about the search. Over 120 background firms, however, and the State of California (by statute), have disavowed this approach.  See 

Another fallout from these databases are consumer scams, where fly-by-night quick-buck artists have set up background checking sites that merely rehash old data at exorbitant prices.  And even worse, many of these sites do not make it crystal clear to employers that they must comply with the FCRA, or that the database results can be incomplete or inaccurate.

The latest twist is that these data searches are now offered over “smart phones. Given the problems with such data, it’s hard to see how someone on a date can really get much value from these database searches.  On the other hand, such applications have been labeled a must have for stalkers and sexual predators becsue these apps apparently include personal data such as address. 

One of the challenges facing the screening industry is to educate employers that these do-it-yourself sites are dangerous and can embroil an employer in all sorts of problems.  The problems can include lawsuits form applicants whose rights were violated, to victims whose injuries could have been prevented by a real background check. 

(Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a leading national online employment screening background firm, is releasing the ESR Third Annual Top Ten Trends in the Pre-Employment Background Screening Industry for 2010. This is the FOURTH of the ten trends ESR will be tracking in 2010.)