Professional investigation firms and background screening companies are witnessing a change in how we conduct background investigations on individuals. We are seeing threats to public record access and an increase in the rules and regulations that govern the reporting of criminal records, especially in pre-employment screening.

Restricted or limited access to criminal court records is nothing new, especially in certain jurisdictions. Many of our country’s over 3,000 courts are poorly funded and staffed, resulting in restricted hours, slow updates to online indices or clerk-only searches. In Indiana, there are still numerous counties where we have to conduct record checks or verifications in person, either using the public access computer terminal provided by the county or searching court index books where online access is of recent vintage. Many jurisdictions which offer public access via web portals limit the reporting of personally identifying information on defendants and other parties, other than a name. In an era of heightened privacy concerns, those redactions will only increase.

Previously on these pages, we have recommended the Safe Hiring Manual to our human resource clients. Now in its third edition, this handy reference book is authored by Les Rosen, an employment law attorney and featured speaker at numerous background screening conferences. Some of the recent trends in background screening seen by Mr. Rosen, and which we have witnessed at Trace Investigations, include but are not limited to:

  • The new data protection regulations from the European Union will impact how we conduct background investigations, serving further to restrict on what we report and how we report. California recently passed new data security laws modeled after the EU’s rules. Other states will be moving to create their own versions of stronger data protection laws.
  • Data breach protection and information security will force investigation firms and background screening companies to “up their game,” including stronger professional liability insurance policies. One data breach could force a smaller firm out of business.
  • Federal class action lawsuits will continue to target companies conducting background checks for businesses. The slightest technical violation of a rule or regulation under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which governs employment background checks, can trigger a lawsuit.

Modern technology has revolutionized our access to information, providing ease of access and leading to savings in time and money, which benefits all parties and our economy. However, the “Internet of Things” brings with it certain ironies, not the least of which is that the ability to conduct business on a personal level, face to face and phone call to phone call, is as important as it has ever been. Professional private investigators will continue to thrive in this environment, for, while we have eagerly adapted to the benefits of the modern technology, we know its limitations and that the application of traditional people skills will often produce the best results.

If you need assistance in conducting a pre-employment background investigation that is accurate and compliant with reporting laws, call Trace Investigations at (812) 333-8830 or email