Employers spend at least $2 billion a year to look into the pasts of prospective employees, reports the Associated Press. The AP calls it a system “weakened by the conversion to digital files and compromised by the welter of private companies that profit by amassing public records and selling them to employers.” Flaws can have devastating consequences.
Computers scrape the public files of court systems to retrieve personal data, but the results are not checked for errors that would be obvious to human eyes. The AP reviewed court filings and interviewed dozens of court officials, data providers, lawyers, victim,s and regulators. “It’s an entirely new frontier,” says Leonard Bennett, a Virginia lawyer who represents people alleging they were the victims of inaccurate background checks. “They’re making it up as they go along.” Virginia, Arizona, and New Mexico have installed security software to block automated programs from getting to their courts’ sites.