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According to Associated Press article “AP IMPACT: When your criminal past isn’t yours” on Yahoo News, the irony of digitizing citizens’ records is the inaccuracy of such digital records have and had screwed some people’s lives big time. The many purposes of turning background records and other sensitive information of citizens on papers into digital records are probably to speed things up, make things more accurate and easier to update, and to efficiently manage such records in ways that paper record filing system would not be able to compete against this modern filing system. Unfortunately, as we find out that the advantages of having digital records store in sophisticated databases are sometimes fall short. For an example of how our modern filing system has fell short, Associated Press reported a woman named Kathleen Ann Casey had a hard time of finding job as various background check companies had pulled up her digital background which filled with incorrect information. It turned out that the criminal charges of the other Kathleen Ann Casey was filed onto the digital background record of the real Kathleen Ann Casey (i.e., real is a relative term in this case). Data entry went badly? Perhaps! But could it be related to the carelessness of the background check companies? Nobody would know for sure, but mistakes came from background check companies had real consequences to real people.
The whole idea of having digital records so the filing system could be more effective in ways that paper filing system could not offer, but it turns out humans are prone to make mistakes as always. After all, it’s still the humans that have to convert or enter the information into the digital records, whether that be background records or other stuffs entirely. What is more troubling is that the records that background check companies scour from public resources cannot not always be accurate, and the pile up of wrong information can digitally stack up, higher and higher. So much for filing records digitally, right?
Perhaps we can always cruelly say to the people who are unlucky enough to have their background records file incorrectly by background check companies — “tough luck,” but what if you’re the one who have to go about correcting your background record?
I think background check companies do serve good purpose. Companies do not want to hire criminals, and so background check companies provide a must needed service for companies that care about hiring clean employees as in without criminal records. As background check companies become evermore crucial to the whole hiring process for most companies, I think someone must come up with a way to audit background records better.
We cannot ignore the damages that might be caused by mistaken identities. Also, we cannot go back to old day where we would file records on papers, because the whole filing process which involves with digitizing records are way more efficient and faster. With such efficiency and speed, I think there must be a way to double check and audit the background records so mistaken identity won’t be so easily occurred.
Of course, it’s easy to say so, but how to come up with a solution and implementing it? I’m not a genius and not having any experience in the field of addressing something like this, therefore I won’t know if there is a solution to this current problem. Nonetheless, I do feel it’s crucial that someone else must be the hero and steps up to provide a solution to address the errors while digitally filing background records.
Let not forget about implementing high computer security standard to prevent unauthorized access to such sensitive digital records. It’s not because digital background records cannot be seen, but it’s more of preventing someone with hacking skill to be able to manipulate such digital records. After all, these digital records such as background records are having real effects on people’s lives.
At a time when our economy is still struggling and job isn’t easy to find, people are not going to be very capable on carrying on with their lives, and bad luck such as having to be identified with wrong background information might just make the whole idea of surviving the hard time much worse. To make matter worse, Associated Press reported few background check companies refused to update the correct information on certain background records. Furthermore, Associated Press reported some states wanted to bring in more revenues by selling data of criminal files in bundles to several background check companies, and the worse part was that such data might have errors and therefore might lead to more problems.
In summary, I think background check companies are useful to corporations and small businesses, but these background check companies must work with a higher standard in auditing people’s background records to prevent background check mistaken identities. The whole modern approach of digitizing records is here to stay, and I don’t see anything wrong with this. Nonetheless, since digital records have made the update and search process much easier and faster, I think such efficiency should provide more than enough extra time for someone or an entity with the power to audit important digital records such as background records to actually prune through these records evermore carefully. It’s great to actually know digital records aren’t always accurate, and in the case of wrong background record one can be reminded of the not always accurate digital records and look up their digital background information to see if their background is indeed their actual background. The real question is, can one go about convincing background check companies that you are who you are and not who they claim you to be?