The right to be forgotten in business

So you’ve got the new, big, shiny job. You have told your boss where to shove it, booked your last bit of remaining holiday, called in sick once when you weren’t and sat back as you wait to start your new exciting job. Your new employers have said the job is yours, subject to references and checks, but that just means it’s a sure thing, right? I mean – you have an email and everything and you have already spoken to your new boss on the phone about why’s happening on your first day in the office. And the contract is in the post.

ID-100226218However 18 years ago you got arrested,our new employers have found out. Or a speeding ticket or something similar. And your new employers have found out and now you have no job, the job offer is withdrawn and you are literally between jobs – the one you chucked and the one who did some research on you. Or paid someone else to do. The meaning of that sneaky sentence in the job offer email or letter  – “Subject to references and checks” – suddenly becomes ominously clear.

This is a reality for many people.

I recently received some information from the pre-employment screening company Experian – who I had only thought of as a credit ratings agency. Until I read this:

When you are hiring employees, you might need more information on a candidate to make an informed decision. The following list includes the types of information that you may often consult as part of a pre-employment check:
•             Identity Check – Validating an individual’s identity to ensure identity exists and verify it belongs to your candidate.
•             Credit Review – Ensure an individual doesn’t have any adverse financial data on their record, checks include, Electoral Roll, address search, CCJ’s, bankruptcies and voluntary arrangements.
•             Criminal record checks – Ensure that an individual doesn’t have a criminal record.
•             Employment referencing – Verbal or Written Employment History – Referees are first qualified within their organisation in particular to their job title/role and professional relationship to the candidate, Experian Background Checking contacts the referee directly to verify the candidate’s employment.
•             DVLA, FCA, Sanctions, Media & Director searches are also available
Using the Experian Candidate Verifier removes associated risk to brand image via the delivery of accurate data on potential employees.

On the surface you may think as an employer this is a good thing. It probably is good practice to check whether a prospective Company Director or Officer or financial signatory is who they say they are and has no criminal record. The company describes the checks as ‘a first line of defence for your business’s integrity, reputation and security’.

If you use this service, you can assume you can trust a new employee in the full knowledge of knowing everything about them. You can protect yourself, your company, and its image and reputation knowing that your new employee is “clean”. There will be absolutely no surprises ensuring that your new employee does not have a criminal record or chequered history. You can finally be certain that there is no doubt whether your new employee has lied about their education, qualifications, or references. Or at the very least if something does goes wrong with the candidate you can always cover your A*** by showing that you had done your homework and authorised this research. This of course assumes that people who have sinned will always sin again and those with no history will continue to be blameless, but that’s another story – circumstances change, financial pressures grow – the conscientious angel of yesterday may easily become the white collar crook of tomorrow.

Experian ask on their website: How much more could you know about the people you’re recruiting? And to me this is a problem for some candidates.

Experian, for the right price, can find out an individual’s current address, as well as two previous addresses. They can find County Court Judgements, whether you have been declared bankrupt, and any other decrees and administration orders they can find. Fair enough I suppose.

Experian can tell you whether someone has been a director of a company before, whether that company is still going or not and maybe why they left. It can also find out if you have ever been self-employed. Also fair game.

It can check whether a person has ever been involved in money laundering scheme with access to data from the Home Office, the US Secret Service, the Bank of England, the US Treasury and various national and international law enforcement agencies. Scary but also fair research.

They can find out if you have a full driving license, any penalty points, speeding or other driving offences. Experian can find out a complete criminal history, with all conviction information, spent or unspent. As well as any other non-conviction information, ‘considered to be relevant’. This is where I get squeamish. What is “relevant”? What about that stupid thing you did at university? Or the fight outside the nightclub 20 years ago when you were arrested by mistake in the confusion and then released without charge?

Added to that, Experian can also conduct a ‘Media Check’. They are able to research over 45,000 national and international newspapers, from as far back as 1971.

So what does this all mean? Well if you have EVER done anything wrong, whether you were convicted or not, whether you have ever had financial difficulties for whatever reason, if you have ever had speeding points, or if you have ever been once negatively mentioned in a newspaper somewhere in the world in the last forty years, your potential employer can find out.

This can make even the most innocent, harmless, and innocuous person uncomfortable. For a company to be able to amass such huge amounts of information on the people they employ, or are considering employing, is unsettling. The ability for a person to put their past behind them is no longer an option. Some may think this is a good thing, but consider all the falsely accused who are forever associated with something they did not do.

Recently the European Court of Justice set the precedent on a case stating an individual’s right to be forgotten. The case came about when a Spanish man tried to remove an article about an auction for his foreclosed home – however he has already paid the debt and now blames the article for denying him a job. Although the internet giants like Google are unclear on how to interpret the ruling, the concept is interesting.

Obviously suggesting that anyone should have the ability to remove any article about themselves on the internet is ridiculous, but with companies like Experian looking under every rock, one incident can hang over the head of a job candidate forever. Does this mean that only angels can now be considered for senior jobs? Does this exclude the risk takers and the entrepreneurs and those arrested by accident – the people who were either innocent or those who have tried and failed and sometimes fallen on their faces?

Of course I am not suggesting or condoning CV fiction or untrue claims – but this level of scrutiny is now a reality for many.

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