PITFALL 1: DATA BLIND SPOTS IN INTERNET-BASED CRIMINAL RECORD SEARCHES AND THE MYTH
OF NATIONWIDE CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS
Internet-based criminal record services contain a potential pitfall that is well
known to professional investigators but is usually unknown to non-investigators.
This hazard could be described as “data blind spots.” In short, a data blind spot
is a gap in coverage where it might otherwise be expected to be found.
Here are two examples of data blind spots:
A commercial data service like Crime Smasher advertises that it includes criminal
records from California. But on closer inspection, it only includes criminal records
from 18 of the most populated counties. The other counties are not made available
by the local court administrators and thus are a “blind spot” as to the subject
of the investigation’s criminal history.
A second example has to do with the coverage or “through dates” of records. Most
data services will update their records from time to time, but reliable information
about when the records were last updated is often unavailable. If it’s been 6, 9
or 12 months since the database was last updated, then this would also be a “blind
spot”. Unfortunately, the companies that collect the criminal case data frequently
don’t pass “through-dates” downstream to re-sellers like Crime Smasher.
The next question is, if there are so many “blind spots” throughout the various
states, then how can there be such a thing as a “nationwide” criminal record check?
The answer is, there can’t. These “nationwide searches” could more accurately be
described as “nationwide criminal record checks for those areas where the information
is publicly available.”
In summary, experienced professional investigators know that data blind spots exist.
They do their best to avoid known blind spots by conducting in-person courthouse
searches in those areas. They also typically place a big fat disclaimer on their
reports because they know that even a diligent background check can sometimes miss
Pitfall 2: Use of Personal Identifiers to Verify
Identity of Offenders
Pitfall 3: Criminal Background Checks for Employers:
The Importance of Redundancy in Records Checking
Model Private Sector "Best Practices"
Criminal Background Check
Conclusion: The Role of Internet-based Criminal
About the Author and Disclaimer
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