Background Checks and Social Media Liability
July 23rd, 2014 by Dodie
In today’s world, there is a constant battle between internet-based companies and hackers over information – everyone’s information. Unfortunately, there is even some competition between internet-based companies and legitimate companies for large chunks of that same information. This includes legit companies such as those who perform tenant/employee background checks.
As a landlord or employer, you want to know as much as possible about a person before you rent to them or hire them. But where do you draw the line?
The good news is that site security like that on social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest, MySpace and LinkedIn, as well as on retail sites and those where private information is stored, is better than ever. The bad news is, so are the tips, tricks and tools that hackers have. More important, there is a fine line between what a background check company can and cannot legally do.
Those doing employee background checks can no longer legally ask anyone for social media passwords. Due to all the legalities surrounding personal information, social media companies, retail sites and others try to limit their liability with privacy policies and other legal instruments users agree to before they can fully access sites. This means that they may have little or no legal liability should they suffer a security breach and private information is compromised.
Many companies may try to assume some level of recompense and several insurance companies offer policies to minimize data breach costs. This is done to minimize the damage both public relations and financial companies may suffer. Even so, if the hacker(s) are caught and prosecuted, there may still be little legal recourse. Even the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) only goes so far. The Civil Action part of the CFAA may give little to no satisfaction to users, while the company that suffered the data breach may have it better.
To minimize your liability when doing background checks and employee/tenant screenings, sticking to ethical, legitimate companies is your best course of action.
Legitimate sources for background check information are limited in the data they can access. Of course, they’ll be able to check credit reports, employment histories, look at public profiles, as well as have some access to how someone uses the internet. Still, prospective tenants and employees can take steps to further protect their privacy by not allowing anything on the internet they don’t want everyone to know.
If you are an employer, you want to hire ethical, honest, loyal employees; if you own or manage rental properties, you want responsible, quality renters. This means prospective hires or renters will have to expect you to do a background check. And, depending on who you have to do the checks, it could be very in-depth. Even with the restrictions placed on personal information access, a good background check company will still be able to give you a thorough evaluation.
Keep in mind that internet-based companies such as Google and eBay take precautions to protect sensitive data from both illegitimate and legitimate sources. Companies that do legitimate background checks will also protect personal information as much as possible to prevent legal ramifications. That said, having the right company to do your background checks will give the assessment you need while still protecting – and respecting – the privacy of prospective employees or tenants. As a result, they also protect you.
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