For years, school kids have been warned about how any thing they do wrong may appear on their "permanent record." In the past, such a record didn't really exist. More recently, some people have realized that the internet, with the help of Google, has become something of your permanent record. However, even more problematic may be the big database companies who store up all your data and sell it to folks who do background and credit checks on you before you can get a job or buy a house in many places. It's no secret that many of these databases contain errors that are hard to correct, and, legally, you often have no real claim on the data these companies collect about you. The NY Times is now noting how this has extended to people who have had arrests or convictions that were officially supposed to be expunged from their criminal records, but which live on in these databases, often making it difficult for certain people to get jobs or buy houses -- even though, officially, they should have no criminal record. Once again, it goes back to the question of who owns the data about you, and what right do you have to have it corrected if they're wrong. As it stands now, these companies don't really have much incentive to make sure your specific data is accurate. Obviously, they want to be mostly accurate, or companies will stop using them, but there's little incentive for them to quickly make changes whenever an error pops up.
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