Why Your Permanent Record Can Really Be Permanent… Even If It's Wrong

from the seems-like-a-pain dept

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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Comments on “Why Your Permanent Record Can Really Be Permanent… Even If It's Wrong”

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32 Comments
ehrichweiss says:

there are ways

Databases like Lexis-Nexis and such actually have a way for you to get information removed. You have to go to their website and find their mostly obscure page that tells what you need to do(usually involves writing a letter to them, typically this isn’t email) and most will comply. However you have to know to do this in the first place AND you have to know what database that someone looked you up on to find the information.

If no one has thought about this previously, the reason they will comply with your request is because if they say you were convicted of a crime and you weren’t(or it was expunged) then they could be guilty of libel/slander for publishing such statements. Or that’s how I understand it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Be aware, there are two kind of “background checks” out there — regulated and not regulated. Background checks for pre-employment or involving credit history are highly regulated, and it is the responsibility of the agency doing the check to ensure the data is 100% correct. In fact, if someone brings a complaint, the agency is not only required to update their own records, but to correct the records of the source they got the info from. In fact, they can ONLY use data if they know its original source. These types of checks are tightly regulated by the FCRA.

The other, “non-regulated” checks have to do with decisions made that have nothing to do with employment or credit history. The unregulated data held in these databases are typically used for marketing, junk mail, private investigations, etc. and cannot be used for employment or purchase approval purposes. While it can be intrusive and annoying, it’s not likely to have life-changing impact on a person’s life.

anonbcomesme says:

FBI fingerprints linked to wrong records for me

Hi,

I decided to check my criminal record just like some do with credit bureaus. I sent my fingerprints and $ to the FBI in Clarksburg, WV, and got back a rap sheet with ~48 nuisance crimes attributed to me. Of course, the perpetrator is/was 5′-6″, weighed 142#, was missing his right forefinger, and lived on the East Coast of Florida. I am 6′, weigh over 200, live in California, and have all my fingers.

In 1979 he went quiet, either died or incarcerated. It took me the better part of 2 years to get the link from fingerprints to records corrected. I’m still suspicious, for there is supposed to be a company in Tennessee or Kentucky that bought the records and sells them to companies.

Check your own record even if you’re squeaky clean, especially if you have some reason to suspect a foulup.

gettin hassled by the Man says:

the man ruined my life

i was in the middle of a misdemeanor intervention program and the man stopped me while walking down the street took the beer i had just opened. He wouldn’t give me a warning even though i am not from florida and I was unaware of the “open container ordinance” and now i will never get a job with my degree and i havent even finished college yet. yes, it is sad and pointless. THE MAN NEEDS TO DIE. God help me please.

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