Business Background Check, Business Check or Verification
Private Sector Criminal History Databases and Background Screening Services
See also Contractor Background Check
Employers’ demand for criminal history background checks is currently met by private sector enterprises who provide professional background screening services and/or commercial databases that aggregate criminal records that are available to the public from government agencies. The commercial databases are not complete because not all states, and not all agencies within individual states, make their records available to such databases; nor does the FBI make its federal or state criminal records available to such databases. In addition, the information in the commercial databases may only be updated periodically. The commercial databases may also be missing important disposition information that is relevant to a conviction record’s use for employment suitability purposes, such as sealing and expungement orders or entry into a pre-trial or post-trial diversion program. Checks of these databases are based not upon positive, biometric identification (such as fingerprints), but upon personal identifiers such as names and other information that can help confirm a person’s identity. Nevertheless, these databases provide a source of information that is significantly broader than going to individual county courthouses in the counties where an applicant indicates that he or she has lived. Professional background screening services also provide overall screening services to employers, performing the function of going to all appropriate data sources, whether primary sources (such as a courthouse) or secondary sources (such as public and private databases) to gather criminal history records and other information, such as financial history, that an employer may be seeking to evaluate a candidate. These services also assist in obtaining the current status of a record at the primary source when it may not necessarily be reflected in a database.
The private data providers and screening services are considered consumer reporting agencies under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and state consumer reporting laws. The activities of consumer reporting agencies in providing information on individual consumers are regulated under these federal and state laws. Some state consumer reporting laws are more restrictive than the FCRA. All of these laws impose fair information-practice requirements by consumer reporting agencies that report public record information, such as criminal history records, for employment purposes. The privacy protections provided to consumers under these laws include the right to consent (including opportunities to opt-in or opt-out), the right to access information about themselves in databases, the right to notice about reporting disclosures that have been made, and the right to challenge the accuracy of the information before adverse action is taken by the user based on the information. They also restrict the reporting of certain types of information, such as, in the case of the FCRA, records of arrests that did not result in a conviction that are older than seven years. Some states restrict the reporting of any arrest-only records by consumer reporting agencies.