Criminal research errors

How is it possible that a the results of a criminal record search can be accurately depicted by one background vendor as “clear” and another vendor reports records to the employer that are not associated with the same candidate.  Expunged records, criminal cases that were dismissed, or the individual successfully completed a pretrial intervention program that should be hidden from the public nor reported to a potential employer continue to live on through Artificial Intelligence (AI) databases and websites.

The difference is how the criminal record searches conducted. A vendor that conducts primary source criminal record checks through state agencies such as the State Police in each state will develop accurate information. The vendor that utilizes AI, a multifaceted scraping of data off of the Internet, will develop records that should not be found or associate records to a candidate that do not belong to them.

Data brokers scour the Internet and scrape arrest data from the local newspaper, send bots to scrape data from County courts that have public access to conduct criminal record checks, pay courts for bulk data, and scrape names of incarcerated individuals from County and state correctional facilities. This data is then scrubbed with other sources of public and personal data, repackaged then sold to background check industry. Websites post mug shots, mobile apps allow users to search for any information developed by name only. Google searches develop results for a person’s name and include current and former addresses, phone numbers individuals living in the same household, potential criminal records and reputation scoring.

Since the sources of data mentioned in this paragraph do not include any identifiers such as a date of birth or Social Security number, individuals are often associated incorrectly with another individual that results in serious reputational harm and misleading information. The record can remain inaccurately attributed to an individual for decades. Internet-based records can begin at the arrest and can follow an individual across their entire lifetime whether or not the charges were dropped, found not guilty or the record was sealed or expunged. AI records are downloaded, sold, and shared.

Employers often bypass the “Box” that appears in the employment application requesting an individual to divulge their criminal history and conduct Internet searches at the earliest stage of the hiring process either on Google or with any one of the thousands of online data brokers that claim they can provide criminal information to you either for free or for a nominal charge. A candidate will never know if they lost an opportunity when a search of this type inaccurately attributes a criminal record to them.    

The digital punishment can have lasting consequences by stigmatizing people already struggling to overcome economic inequalities.