Personal Background Check
Background Check: Are Some Personal Records Confidential?
Background checks are regularly performed to verify the identities and check the histories of prospective tenants and employees. Some information is a matter of public record and may be checked by anyone. However, there is a great deal of personal information that is confidential and cannot be released without the consent of the individual.
If an employer or landlord seeks to obtain certain records, they must obtain written consent from the individual whose history they are investigating. However, once the company or landlord has obtained written consent, they may be able to access a wealth of personal information about the individual.
Background Information That May Be Released Without Consent
- Identity Verification
An individual’s identity may be verified without the express consent of the individual. A person’s name, address and even Social Security number may be verified by a potential employer or landlord without obtaining the consent of the applicant.
- Sex Offender Check
Sex offender conviction data is a matter of public record. Consent from the individual is not required to check the sex offender rosters for an individual’s name and data.
- Terrorist Watch Check
Employers, landlords and others who perform background checks are not required to obtain consent of the individual to check for their name and data on the Terrorist Watch List.
- Criminal Records Check
State laws vary with regard to a prospective employer or landlord accessing an individual’s criminal records. Some states will allow access to criminal records only for a certain number of years prior to the current date. Other states will only allow criminal records checks for positions that would require a clean criminal history. Check with your state with regard to access to criminal records for the purposes of a background check.
- Social Media and Internet Data
No permission is required to search social networks or the internet in general for information about an applicant. However, one news story recently reported that certain employers in New York were asking applicants for their usernames, as well as their passwords, for sites such as Facebook.
- Driving Records
Driving records are not protected or confidential and may be accessed without the consent of the individual.
- Bankruptcy Records
Bankruptcy records may be accessed without the consent of the individual. Though bankruptcies are a matter of public record, employers are prohibited from using bankruptcy information to deny an individual employment or a promotion.
Background Information That May Not Be Released Without Consent
Employers and landlords are required by law to obtain written permission to check certain personal data of an applicant. This personal data includes:
- Credit Reports
Prospective employers and landlords may access an individual’s credit reports and credit history. However, employers and landlords must provide the individual with a written request and must obtain a signed authorization from the individual in order to access credit information. Employers and landlords may base their decision to hire or rent to the individual based on their credit rating.
- Medical Records
Prospective employers and landlords may not ask to see an individual’s medical records. Though employers may verify that the applicant is able to perform the job in question, the American Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination for hiring based on a person’s disability.
- Educational Records
Prospective employers and landlords must obtain the individual’s permission in order to access their school records. However, many employers will require that the applicant provide a copy of their college transcripts to complete their hiring packet.
- Military Records
Only certain information about an individual’s military service may be released without their permission. Name, rank, assignments, salary and awards may be obtained without the consent of the individual. Any information beyond these items must be accessed with authorization from the person in question.