We recently sat down with Wholesale Screening Solutions founder and president, Matt Lowers. He discussed a few key trends impacting the background screening industry and public records research, specifically.
Lowers explained, “One of the key trends involves jurisdictions that remove identifiers from the public index in an effort to protect the applicant’s privacy or identity. While often well-intentioned, this trend is making it harder for public records researchers to provide accurate search results.”
We thought it would be worthwhile to break this down further.
Why are jurisdictions removing PII from the public index?
The national trend toward increasing privacy legislation has affected courts. Many have reevaluated and changed public access records policies to more strongly protect personal information in court records, especially because the Internet makes access to the information more readily available.
Tightening access or redacting PII from public indexes stems from a desire to protect individual privacy and reduce the potential for identity theft. Both valid concerns.
How does the removal of PII impact the accuracy/quality of public records research?
Our view is that the very thing that the courts and legislatures put in place to protect individuals with public records actually can come back to harm them, as the accuracy of a public record search result is adversely impacted. The lack of certain key personal identifiers means common names can easily be confused and you run the risk of an applicant being unfairly excluded or judged.
Accurate background screening can foster greater safety in communities across the board. Access to identifiers allows for a more comprehensive screening process to match important records, such as criminal records, with a specific person to ensure they are not a person of concern. Failure to do this on a policy level can expose communities to safety gaps in areas such as schools, the workplace, or public facilities, such as hospitals.
Background checks are an important step in a number of processes, including renting a home, applying for a job, or volunteering with an organization. This screening process protects everyone directly and indirectly involved. Thus, limited access to important identifiers may make these important checks impossible, less accurate, or delayed at the very least.
We also believe the removal of PII has had the unintended effect of exacerbating the growing issue of litigation resulting from providing inaccurate criminal records. We’d like to see this trend reversed or at least approached with more sensibility.
At Wholesale Screening Solutions, we join the NAPBS on its position that efforts to remove identifiers from public records due to concerns over identity theft are not only unwarranted, but have unintended negative consequences. It is crucial that certain personal identifiers, such as full addresses and complete dates of birth, be available to ensure accuracy and safety.
What do you think? How has the protection of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) impacted your ability to provide useful information to your customers?