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Are 3rd Party Background Checks An Invasion Of Privacy? 14

TheGeneration asks: "Yesterday I went on an interview with a company where I was applying for a jr. programming position. The last page of the application was a contract for a background check with a third party company, that apparently does background checks on employees. They sift through ALL of your personal records (financial, past employers, criminal record, military record, driving record, etc.) and then report back to the employer. They also warehouse that information to be sold to other companies at a later date. I declined to sign this form citing concern about giving up my right to privacy for all time to a company that would then sell that info. I was denied an interview as a result. Is it ethical for companies to force potential employees to give up all rights to their privacy?"
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Are 3rd Party Background Checks an Invasion of Privacy?

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  • Shouldn't this be posted to "Your Rights Online"? Won't that third party company be data-warehousing that info and transferring it electronically? (to every telemarketer in the known universe if you get a paying job, since they'll be able to tell them your exact demographic profile)
  • The same thing happened to me, when I tried to get a Voicestream cellular phone. Since I have absolutely no good nor bad credit (being a college student sucks!) they wanted a $500 deposit to even begin the process.. The worst part was they couldn't even give me a reason as to how they came up with the $500 figure. "That's what the computer came back with" was all I could get.

    I got even with them though.. got someone with excellent credit to get the phone in their name and let me use it. take that, voicestream!

  • I recently was contacted by a Consulting company which wanted to do a background and credit check on me. I refused saying, "I don't believe that any company that I work for needs to see my credit report."

    I am not interested in working for companies that want that kind of personal information.

    --
    you are not what you own
  • I thought they could only require a background check as a precondition for giving you the job, i.e., once they have interviewed you and decided that they will make an offer, they can do a credit/background check, and can then refuse you a job only if they find something bad in the check. I don't think they can check you before interviewing.
  • Doing background checks may be declared unlawful in the USA, but laws differ from country to country (heck, even from county to county). The thing is, do you think these and other similaer ethical issues are global or merely local issues?

    Around here in this parts of Mexico, it's supposed to be unlawful to question women about their sex life during their interviews... however, several companies do this kind of stuff on a regular basis, yet most people don't find this kind of questioning unethical or offensive.

    The point, although maybe a bit offtopic by now, is that sometimes it's a part of the local culture, and therefore it's not seen as something "unethical" by most.
  • wow, really? I'm still in school, but of the 10+ or so jobs I've had, (about half of which would be considered "professional"), most have done background checks. This includes places like IBM, William Mercer, n other big companies...

    basically, they don't screw around. they have the right to watch their own asses, i believe...as to whether it's an invasion of one's privacy, especially with a third party involved...well, i'd have to say hell yea, it is. i think it's probably the lesser of several possible evils, however...for instance, i think we'd be much worse off if background checks weren't allowed and psychotic shmucks were screwing companies over left and right (well, moreso than they do now)...because then people would begin to get blackmailed from jobs on account of stuff as irrelevant as, say, how dumb their /. posts are.

    hiring companies need something to work off of...take what they have away, and they'll just find something else.
  • I've had one job which made hiring contingent on a background check, but never an interview. I can't imagine a company which would do a background check on everyone who filled out an app. But I'm sure I wouldn't want to work there.

  • There are only 2 reasons I would agree to a background check that involves finances:

    1. If the position includes a national security clearance or is in law enforcement
    2. I the position involves direct access to a good size of the companies liquid assets

    Both of these have valid merits to knowing my financial situation. But I would also want to know exactly who compiles the report and who reviews it.

    Beware of companies that claim they are for one of the above. I had a fellow co-worker at a defense contractor who was a consultant with another company. That company (the consulting firm he worked for) was claiming my company (the defense contractor) needed a background check into his finances, etc... Not only was this completely untrue (he verified with our HR department), but both of us already had national security clearances (which would already reveal any issues).

    So many companies are ready to abuse you out there.

    -- Bryan "TheBS" Smith

  • This is Australia, so the law is different, but the answer is probably "not a hope". They are a credit provider (assuming it's not prepaid), so they have every right to check your credit status to know if you've had any previous problems paying bills etc.
  • by Wog ( 58146 )
    Ethical? No.
    Lawful? Afraid so. And with good reason. Most managers would like to know if an applicant spent a year in jail for striking a co-worker, or stealing equipment. What is right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right.

    Now, if you could make them sign something to the effect of not disclosing the results of the check...
  • I was recently faced with this odious nonsense and wrote "respectfully decline to authorize" in large red letters. Also used the ever handy red pen to write "decline to answer" for some of the more looney questions (colored pens are your friend - makes the stuff you think important stand out). The young woman interviewing me gave the raised eyebrow deal when she reviewed it but otherwise said nothing. As I was still offered the job I don't think it hurt my chances. So you can say no. But be prepared for them to say buh-bye.
  • Is that most companies don't do this sort of thing. I've only applied for one job ever that wanted to do a background check, and when I said no they still offered me a job (being in demand is good).

    If a company has that kind of policy on an interview, what do you think their policies will be like once you work there? You did everyone a favor by saying no. They won't be able to afford to do bussiness like that for long when programmers are in demand. :)

  • The truth is that the same information revolution in which all /.rs bask is being used to undermine our most fundamental freedoms. At one time, the greatest fears private citizens held regarding their rights and protections were levelled at government, because no business entity had the wherewithal to stifle privacy or Constitutional Rights. Thus, the Constitution and Bill of Rights placed limitations on the Federal gov't; the Contstitution was amended to limit subordinate gov'ts, and so the problem was solved. ...until the information revolution. The time is ripe for the institution of a true commercial bill of rights as an addition to the Uniform Commercial Code for the protection of citizens both as consumers and employees. The first step is being considered now (maybe). In July, two bills were introduced for deliberation in the Congress: S.2699 and HR.4611. These bills propose to strip SSNs from all government (at all levels) checks and records, PLUS they would prohibit businesses (generally) from refusing to service customers who withhold their SSNs. The progress of these two bills has gotten away from me, so if anyone has an update, RSVP. These bills are only the first step, mind you. Get active with your Rep and Senators, even if they are more interested in the next two years than in our rights now. the DOG
  • There is no contention that BG checks are generally beneficial, and imperative in some industries and occupations. The issue here is _third_party_ data harvesting. If an employer (or potential employer) desires information about your past, either it should do the search itself or use a secure service company (in much the same manner as drug screenings are conducted) that will surrender the results of the BG check without retaining a copy for its own commercial gain.

    I _do_ have a right to privacy, precisely because of the Reserved Powers doctrine, and I intend to enforce and exercise that right. I bestow my patriotic allegiance to my Country, not the corporate collective that is so effectively and unethically striving to supplant it.

Beware of Programmers who carry screwdrivers. -- Leonard Brandwein

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