In the age of computers and robotics, an alarming number of people have had their
careers and positions replaced by artificial intelligence. It’s nothing new as millions of
former positions have been offered to circuit boards over fathers, mothers, sisters, aunts
and brothers who used to bring in a nice income working on the line at GM, in shipping
and receiving or working in admin figuring out employee schedules and overseeing the
logistics of how goods and services come to market. On a recent special I was amazed
to see how the Amazon warehouse, which is the starting point for the majority of goods
ordered on the site, was run by only a couple dozen people surrounded by a massive
web of bots traveling up and down the seemingly endless rows of shelving to grasp the
desired item and bring back to a conveyor belt which fed the merchandise into various
sized boxes then proceeded to a machine which taped, wrapped and delivered the
package to the various forms of transport waiting at the loading dock. By 2020, I
wouldn’t be shocked to see those same trucks remotely guided to an airport where a
cargo drone plane takes its shipment via remote control to receiving warehouses world
wide till another remote truck takes to the automated post office and finally delivered by
the mail bot !!! These are things which we are all being accustomed to seeing in the
21st century but when we order a product that requires deductive reasoning, experience
in looking at court cases and the determination of whether a specified applicant was
guilty of a crime in one or several of the 3400+ counties nationwide, our expectations of
a human conducting these searches is a given !! Right ? If you answered yes to that
question, think again.


10 years ago , the buzz about the pre-employment screening industry was whether
a search was conducted onsite, at a courthouse, instead of accessed via the web
through a direct or third party database. Furthermore, if information was accessed
remotely, was it in compliance with end customer’s expectations and that of the
guidelines set forth in the FCRA . It was discovered that many background check
companies were using regurgitated data thrown together in a big heap of info where the
quantity inside these databases were used to boast the effectiveness of the product.
Lost in all this was whether the information was updated in a timely fashion to avoid
reporting things like expunged records , errors in subject identification or if the
information was even derived from the correct jurisdiction !!! To make things more
complicated, some counties and states jumped on the bandwagon and pieced together
“ countywide” or “statewide” records databases which gave the illusion the information
was all inclusive. To add insult to injury, States like New York started charging $50 bucks
a pop on these with absolutely no recourse if the information was incorrect, incomplete
or should have been sealed from public view. The online argument became acceptable
only with indices which were identical to the one used at the courthouse but still had a
drawback which was accessing identifiers which were only available through the hard
copy case file. Hence, a person had to be in place to retrieve these so the onsite county
person was , and remains, the only true way to access the best records available. And ,
by the way, this is what the majority of end user clients are expecting their information to
come from. SOme of the more reputable companies still searched for criminal records
this way while some took shortcuts in searching online and only sending the applicants
with “possible records” out to their field person. Since , on average , 1 out of 6 persons
have criminal records, this saved time and money by reporting the no records
immediately. Now we enter the age of computers searching for records in an automated
fashion , dumping all information associated with a individual into their systems and
turning the findings over to their client without so much as a detailed account of how the
information was derived. It’s called screen scraping and it is , essentially, a robot
conducting searches without any true filtering of this info and it is not limited to courts
having their in-house index online. To combat this, many “bots” merely comb through
sheriff’s arrest records and if they have indication of a record send in their field person.
However, the information is incomplete because not every person who commits a crime
goes through their county’s sheriff’s dept. instead their are direct indictments ,
misdemeanor cases which derive out of a city court and corresponding police force and
those who commit minor misdemeanors and go directly to court bypassing the police.
More importantly, this is not what most clients signed up for and neither should you.
Ask whether any online searches are conducted and whether they are an “at source”
database which mirrors the index found at the jurisdiction. If the online search is
legitimate, make sure a human is conducting the search and not a program which
automates the process. Too many records are missed form the absence of deductive
reasoning skills in which only a human can adequately process. Leave your trusted
searches to a screening professional and not an invisible IT guy who has 0 experience
with court records . “ Insert ABC tagline here “