ScreenDiscussion

Blogging background checking and security issues

4.22.2005

DSW Joins the Club

In response to the ongoing series of publicized data theft occurrences that was kicked off by ChoicePoint and whose most recent entrant was Designer Shoe Warehouse, companies in the background screening industry are either touting their good reporting and security practices or else quickly beefing them up. The article above also points out that Equifax, one of the big three credit reporting companies, has created an online resource that offers consumers advice on how to deal with issues related to identity theft issues. There are already all kinds of resources like this available on the internet (just Google “identity theft”), but this is the first big step by a major player in the industry to capitalize on the crisis.

The whole thing reminds me of that scene in Braveheart where the Scottish nobles are all sitting around a table after betraying the Scottish army, and they’re wondering which one of them will be next. As more of these successful hacks are broadcast to the country and world, more hacker s and thefts are no doubt being drawn to try out their skills. Who will be next? Does the security exist to keep out all of the intrusion attempts? I’m not an expert on that subject so I don’t know. What I think we can expect is increased spending on network security by background screening companies, and what follows logically is increased prices for background screening services. Employers and companies that use background screening services then having to pay more for the same services may consider using lower cost screening companies – like the ones that promote quick and easy (and highly fallible) database searches as adequate background checks.

For now I think we can expect to see more occasions of consumer data theft and increased effort on the parts of the various background screening companies, legislators and various software companies to combat it and find a solution.

4.21.2005

Cooking Up Some Changes

Ah, the fun of playing with CSS. It wouldn't be so bad if I had written it all myself, but Blogger (which I'm still using to post blogs, even though ScreenDiscussion has moved. I hope to change that soon, but this is enough for now. I still don't have things set to be equally viewable in both IE and Firefox (not to mention others), but the basic form you see now is close to what it's supposed to be. If it looks hideous on your browser please drop me a line.

Once this is set I'll be able to focus much better on posting relevant to background screening.

Criminal Records No Longer Reportable, But Still Viewable

A few days ago I wrote that easier access to public records means more accountability for criminals. This is true, but there is something there that nags me that I can’t quite get away from.

There is no doubt in my mind that our society should have consequences for the bad decisions that people make. That’s how life works. However, I’m not convinced that the current system and the current set of standards for using criminal history information is the best. 7 years is typically the standard for reporting criminal history information by background screening companies. A few states even have laws that state that criminal history information past 7 years cannot be used to make employment decisions. Other states have laws that, in effect, say that non-convictions cannot even be reported by background screening companies, much less used by employers.

So let’s say that all that is fine and good. People who were never convicted shouldn’t be punished, and people whose crimes were committed over 7 years ago should be given another chance. I’m fine with that. What I question then is why these cases are still available to the public. If they are no longer relevant, why can anyone go to the local courthouse, or even go online, and pull up the record?

It’s great that there is some level of respect for privacy and even some willingness on the part of lawmakers to account for the possibility of a criminal changing at the professional level, but since we’re talking about public records we’re not just talking about professional access. I could go to the courthouse and find out that a neighbor was charged with driving under the influence four years ago, but that his case was then dismissed. If I were a reasonable person, knowing that wouldn’t change a thing between us. I might be a little cautious, but it wouldn’t change much. However, if I were not such a reasonable person, being very discriminatory and thinking very highly of myself, that knowledge might have a severe effect on the way I treat that neighbor. I might start treating that neighbor as less than human.

Employers have laws that govern their use of criminal information. Neighbors don’t. We’re giving criminal information about individuals to people who may not know how to deal with it properly. Granted, crimes are usually crimes against society. However, I still think we should be careful about how they’re used. We don’t need any more reasons to be distrustful of our fellow citizens.