A few decades ago, running a background check was costly and time-consuming. Hundreds of hours of work were required in order to compile information about a person. But mainstream use of the internet changed everything. Massive amounts of data (that could be stored and analyzed) resulted from people’s online interactions. This resulted in unprecedented technological advances in all fields of human activity. In this article, we explore some of the ways in which technology helps improve the background screening process.
Speed and Cost
High tech algorithms can analyze data at an impressively fast pace. For instance, online background search site Check People can crawl thousands of websites and create a report within minutes. There is no longer a need for someone to manually search for information, sort through duplicate records, analyze and organize results. Hiring managers can get reports on hundreds of applicants in less than one hour. Because there’s less need for manual labour, the process is a lot cheaper (for example, checkpeople offers unlimited monthly searches for less than $50).
Machine learning and artificial intelligence are contributing to more accurate background check results. By classifying and organizing data in more efficient ways, technology also helps reduce employer biases. Machine Learning helps shift focus to crucial data points, eliminate duplicate records, and organize information faster and better. However, there are experts voicing concerns regarding the lack of human participation in the process, especially in regard to discrimination issues and gender neutrality. Leaving the entire process to machines means that a glitch in the system can have disastrous consequences for people aspiring for housing or a job.
Enhanced Security and Risk Mitigation
Less human interaction usually means fewer chances for security breaches. Because background screening companies manage sensitive information, protecting the client’s privacy is of the utmost importance. It’s not only a matter of better business practices but one that could result in ugly and costly litigation processes. Technology helps make servers and websites more secure by establishing verification patterns, encrypting information, and involving fewer people in the process. As algorithms are improved, there are fewer weak spots for hacker attacks.
On the other hand, more accurate results mean fewer risks. Hidden records that could pose important threats for companies are more accessible through the development of stronger and better algorithms (for example, through blockchain technologies).
Checking the information of people who worked or lived overseas, or international candidates always meant more time-consuming tasks for background screeners. But as technology advances, data is globally available. While there are certain government restraints (for example, to access criminal records from a foreign country), the process is easier and requires less manual labour. This becomes especially relevant in a job market permeated by employee mobility. From an ethical standpoint, however, there are challenges to address. Cultural nuances, for example, cannot be analyzed by algorithms.
Understand Your Rights
If for any reason, someone is running a background check on you, it’s important to educate yourself and understand which information they can get, and how they can use it. Algorithms can still make mistakes. For example, two Uber driver candidates were denied an opportunity because their records were mixed up with other people with similar names. As a result, it appeared as if they had felony convictions and drug-related misdemeanours. Citizens have the right to ask for corrections when something like this happens. This is why running a background check on yourself on a periodical basis is highly encouraged; you’ll have the time to correct mistakes before they have significant consequences. Also, background check companies are not allowed to report on expunged or sealed records. Finally, if someone wants to access your credit history, they are required to ask for your written consent. If the information on your background check is used against you, hiring managers or landlords are required to disclose it, and give you a copy of your rights.