Background checks affect our privacy by their very definition because your history is exactly that – yours. When an employer conducts a check legally using a company like CheckPeople, they let you know that your past will be looked into. It doesn’t matter if you’re a job candidate or already working for the company and subject to an ongoing check. The employer must ask you to sign a release form. This means: when done legally, background checks are not an invasion of privacy because you gave consent.

By law, the disclosure and release statement cannot be part of your job application. This makes sure you as a candidate are aware you’re giving the company access to your personal history.

Keywords: Restraint and Consistency

Best practices mandate that companies conduct ongoing reviews of background check policies and consider the privacy issue very carefully. Restraint and consistency are key to balancing an employee’s right to privacy and an employer’s right to information.

Employer policy must indicate the amount of information required to make sure a safe and qualified individual is being hired. Policy parameters must be adhered to for all applicants and existing employees. You may want as much information as possible, but you should limit your search to what’s relevant. An employer must conduct background checks in a consistent rather than haphazard and sporadic way.

It’s all about striking a balance between different parties’ rights. A carefully weighted balance will make the whole process fair and transparent, which everyone should strive to achieve.

Relevant Laws

One of the laws that’s most relevant to the privacy aspect of background checks is the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA). A lot of the data this statute covers emerges in a financial context. When someone applies for a mortgage, a car loan, a credit card, or other types of credit, the data provided in accordance with the GLBA is current, accurate, and reliable. What’s more, it’s often hard to find anywhere else.

According to this law, banks and other financial institutions cannot disclose personal, nonpublic, and nonfinancial information such as one’s address, name, and phone number. However, there are some exceptions.

How Much Variation is Permissible?

Employers must exercise caution in conducting background checks and limit themselves to the information that’s relevant to and affects job performance. You need to check every single candidate for a criminal record if you want to subject someone of a certain denomination to one. Depending on the job’s requirements and responsibilities, one can expect some variation, but if you have people applying for the same job, this variation between applicants is unacceptable.

The Legality of Social Media Screening

In an attempt to save money and time, many employers are checking candidates’ social media. Usually, these checks are well-meant. After all, no company wants an employee posting things that could tarnish its image. However, we all know where the road paved with good intentions leads. Some companies can take their desire to protect the workplace to extremes, asking candidates to open their social accounts during the interview or even asking for their social network passwords.

It’s best not to look at social media at all because you’re moving into a murky private account world. You’re no longer looking for or at the publicly available information. What’s more, it will be hard for a recruiter to make an objective decision after uncovering a candidate’s social media information. There are no guidelines to define acceptability. This could result in bias and discrimination.

Another issue with social media background checks involves verification. You might end up looking at the wrong person’s social media profile, especially if your candidate has a common name.

Lack of consistency is one more potential problem. A candidate who’s inactive on social media might get an unfair advantage over someone who is and vice versa. All in all, social media background checks can be risky. It’s best to stick to traditional, legal, and ethical background checks.

Final Thoughts

As a company, your employees are a crucial investment, and you have every right to screen them as long as they provide consent. A bad hire can be devastating, costing the company a lot of time and money. It’s important to make sure the whole process is fair and just by attaining true balance.


Sumit is a Tech and Gadget freak and loves writing about Android and iOS, his favourite past time is playing video games.

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