Is your private information online via background checks? My agency has received feedback from multiple individuals regarding information about them being presented on websites like MyLife and Spy Fly during background checks. Due to the amount of questions regarding this, we’d feel it is best to discuss based on our view of the subject. You agree to the below disclaimer by reading further.
Public vs. Private Information
There is normally a clear distinction when discussing the idea of private versus public data. Items such as your address, landline phone number, voter registration, and non-sealed or expunged criminal record will likely always be public. Other information which may be obtain through legal and non-invasive means, such as work history, cell phone numbers, email addresses, photos, etc may be difficult to control if you voluntarily posted this information publicly. Private information which is almost always regulated by privacy laws would be information on bank accounts, medical records, certain tax filings, and information protected by law if you did not willingly publish this information or consent to do it yourself. Learn more about what is considered private and the court’s ruling on the subject: (link)
Accuracy of Databases
Every database that our firm has come across during background checks, has inaccuracies. Even the most expensive databases containing regulated records have problems with information accuracy. When it comes to free and publicly facing databases such as PIPL, Spy Fly, and MyLife, these are overwhelming inaccurate. Many mix relatives up and confuse people’s ages, work, photos, criminal history, and other details. The risk for disparagement and libel is often high and these resources should never be trusted for their accuracy. The only true way to verify someone’s identity is by government issued ID and a manual review of court records to ensure the records within public databases are correct. Lastly, it may be illegal for a company to use this information to make employment decisions. A business should always consult an EEO attorney to ensure compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and local / state laws.
Click Bait Websites
Many of these paid or free background checks websites are predicated in the click bait methodology. They will almost always list minor traffic tickets as bright red “CRIMINAL RECORDS FOUND” and may even list normal divorce proceedings as Bankruptcies & other, filed discreetly away under civil records. The purpose of this is to convince you that there’s something about the individual you’re looking for, as generally the only people to run a background of this caliber are those who suspect something to begin with. Do not buy into it.
Disparagement & Libel
Going back to the inaccuracy of websites, this is mainly due to advanced AI algorithms which scan other databases and then try to assemble the information into a profile. As such, you get broken pieces of data which are patched together into a Frankenstein background report. For those who have little exposure to the inaccuracy of this type of data, those who run the reports may believe these inaccuracies to be true. Some of these profiles, such as on MyLife, contain “reputation scores” which score an individual based on their background checks. So, not only are these services providing materially false claims about individuals where they sometimes claim people with no convictions or bankruptcies have them, but they also create a fake score that is somehow supposed to be trustworthy.
Individuals concerned about false information posted about them should politely request or angrily demand these records to be removed. Almost every one of these websites that my agency has come across provides some sort of manual removal email address or contact phone number. Do not bother with the “create an account to claim this profile” crap. This is generally a further way to obtain private information about your that they don’t currently have, such as email, phone number, and god forbid payment information. Please note, Google and Bing (or other search engines) cache websites for days, sometimes months. Even once the profiles have been removed, the damage sometimes is already done and can take weeks and months for said search engines to clear their results of those profiles. Be sure to continuously check on your own profile if you do demand the removal.
Finally, nothing with this article should be considered any form of legal advice. If you have issues with libel or disparagement from these websites and/or if they refuse to comply with your demands, you need a licensing and practicing attorney to advise you on potential courses of legal action. If you are a business, you should seek counsel with an EEO or your company’s general counsel to make the approach legal decisions.
Spectre Intelligence is a private investigation and intelligence firm located in sunny Round Rock, TX (Austin area). If you need investigation or cyber security services, visit us at www.spectreintel.com and www.spectretechnology.com