Legal Aspects of Background Checking

Whenever we hear the term ‘background checking’ it automatically gives us the impression of a background of past criminal activities. But the truth of the matter is, performing a background check on a certain person may be necessary for a number of reasons. A background check does not necessarily involve an in depth check; it may be done for the simple purpose of clearing any doubts before entering into a business venture or hiring a new employee.

Background checking is even popular among certain communities where parents may check the background of their child’s future spouse and family. In addition to searching for criminal records, background checks also help you find general information on, for example, a business company’s legal status and reputation, and also its business competitors and how its products or services fare in the market.

Thus the term background checking encompasses a broad spectrum, and covers wide range of investigative researches on individuals, companies and small business. Now the question of a background check arises because there may be certain doubts or problems with a certain individual or business entity that need to be cleared. So it is important for the lawyer or the investigator to understand the context in which the checking has to be done and the nature of the problem that has to be addressed. It is the responsibility of the investigator to ask the client about the objective behind such a background check. It is important from both an ethical as well as a legal point of view.

If you are going to perform such a background check on some person or some business entity, you must be aware of several federal laws that control the access to public records and personal information. So far as the financial records are concerned, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLB) governs the procedures through which personal financial information are disclosed to a third party. Then there is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) that protects the privacy of a person’s consumer reports. Similarly, The Drivers Privacy Protection Act protects the past driving records of individuals.

Additional federal laws contain privacy provisions that restrict access to public school and medical records, as well as other records maintained by government agencies. There are many more Federal laws that regulate the disclosure of the medical reports and school days information.

However the provisions of laws dealing with the access to several public and personal information may vary with each state. Even for the governmental information that are accessible to public, there are certain restriction as to how you can use those information.

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