The Wall Street Journal explores the scope and impact of the issue of criminal records that live on in digital warehouses in the private sector, even after they have been purged from government databases. There is no national data on how often expunged records are reported by background-check companies, because expunged records by definition no longer exist. But consumer advocates say the number has grown along with the demand for such services by employers and landlords, among others.
The screening companies point to their own research showing that only a tiny fraction of applicants contest the accuracy of their reports each year. The Federal Trade Commission has brought eight cases against background-screening services since 2009 for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which requires companies to take reasonable steps to achieve “maximum possible accuracy” in the reports they produce. Private plaintiffs have also filed lawsuits against background screeners in recent years. The companies—including HireRight Solutions Inc., LexisNexis Risk Solutions Inc., Intellicorp Records Inc. and Sterling Infosystems Inc.—have paid millions of dollars in settlements but admitted no wrongdoing.