Agency Sends Letter to Marketers of Six Apps for Background Screening
Personally, I am glad to see that these practices are being scrutinized (see my comments below).
The Federal Trade Commission warned marketers of six mobile applications that provide background screening apps that they may be violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FTC warned the apps marketers that if they have reason to believe the background reports they provide are being used for employment screening, housing, credit, or other similar purposes, they must comply with the Act.
The companies that received the letters are Everify, Inc., marketer of the Police Records app; InfoPay, Inc., marketer of the Criminal Pages app; and Intelligator, Inc., marketer of Background Checks, Criminal Records Search, Investigate and Locate Anyone, and People Search and Investigator apps.
According to the FTC, some of the apps include criminal record histories, which bear on an individual’s character and general reputation and are precisely the type of information that is typically used in employment and tenant screening. “If you have reason to believe that your background reports are being used for employment or other FCRA purposes, you and your customers who are using your reports for such purposes must comply with the FCRA,” the letters say.
The FCRA is designed to protect the privacy of consumer report information and ensure that the information supplied by consumer reporting agencies is accurate. Consumer reports are communications that include information on an individual’s character, reputation, or personal characteristics and are used or expected to be used for purposes such as employment, housing or credit.
Under the FCRA, operations that assemble or evaluate information to provide to third parties qualify as consumer reporting agencies, or CRAs. Mobile apps that supply such information may qualify as CRAs under the Act. CRAs must take reasonable steps to ensure the user of each report has a ‘permissible purpose’ to use the report; take reasonable steps to ensure the maximum possible accuracy of the information conveyed in its reports; and provide users of its reports with information about their obligations under the FCRA.
In the case of consumer reports provided for employment purposes, for example, CRAs must provide employers with information regarding their obligation to provide notice to employees and applicants of any adverse action taken on the basis of a consumer report.
According to the letters, the agency has made no determination whether the companies are violating the FCRA, but encourages them to review their apps and their policies and procedures to be sure they comply with the FCRA.
Personally, I am glad to see that these practices are being scrutinized. However, you don’t need an “app” to get this information. You can access many background check sites online, and for $50.00 or less, you can get pages of personal information on an individual. People Search or Intellius will even give you some free information, such as an individual’s address and phone number – even if the person is “unlisted” in the White Pages.
In addition to FCRA concerns, there are other reasons why these sites are bad news.
I think it should be against the law to either freely give or sell a person’s information online. If I want my address or phone number to be unlisted, that means no one should be able to access it online. I hope the FTC cracks down not just on “apps” but on these sites in general. There are many people who don’t want to be found for good reason. For example, someone who is being stalked or single women living alone.
I understand the need for hiring private detectives, but at least these professionals can get a glean into the person who is asking for the information and check their credentials or criminal record before giving them someone’s personal information. Otherwise, any random psychopath can find you on the internet.
Also, what a great way for someone to commit identity theft.