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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 information.

Pitfall 2: Use of Personal Identifiers to Verify Identity of Offenders

Pitfall 3: Criminal Background Checks for Employers: Legal Considerations

The Importance of Redundancy in Records Checking

Model Private Sector "Best Practices" Criminal Background Check

Conclusion: The Role of Internet-based Criminal Record Searches

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