Assault on American Common Names in the Mis-Information Age

Assault on American Common Names in the Mis-Information Age


The name, “Michael Davis”, represents an All-American apple pie and baseball lovin’ American son.  And it’s popular; Over 16,000 Americans are named “Michael Davis” right now.

Maybe there’s a Michael Davis out there in the dating world.  So he meets a gal and she quickly does an internet search “just to see what shows up.”  OMG, his name pops up with a Felony Larceny Conviction.  Give the guy a BREAK.  She’s  no investigator, and the online Information Broker thinks all 300 Michael Davis’s are the same because they share a birth year or birthdate.

There’s a REALLY, really GOOD chance it’s not the same guy at all.  There’s simply not enough public information identifier keys online to definitively tell the two people apart.  And Really, let’s be “Frank” [Davis :-)], the Information brokers are not providing IBMWatson intelligence into their results.  It’s just long lists of possibly matched cases with limited idenifiers thrown out to the public with the appearance of a match.  Besides that, a little side note, she just handed over his name and birthday (2/3 of a full identity) to the very companies which gave worthless information to her for Free. 

So who had the more valuable information? The gal or the Information Broker with Data waiting for someone to help them connect the dots.

Is it fair to have one “bad” Michael Davis ruin opportunities for jobs, relationships and friendships for ALL the others?  Absolutely not.

In the news a “Ryan Davis” claimed one of the largest background check companies  accused him of 25 Sexual Assault offenses on a background check report.  He says his true background report should have had Zero cases listed.

A Real Final Report of an investigation takes more than one button press and a free online web browser to figure out the truth.  Since the online Information Broker scam seems to be generally accepted, now even large online “background check” or “employment screening” companies provide half-baked reports and still keep their clients regardless of lawsuit trends or just plain common-sense about probability and statistics with common names.

Yes, this is the Mis-Information Age.  And Information Brokers and Online Background check companies are publically getting away with an Assault on Common Named Americans.

This is an Assault Case.

The weapon of choice for Information Brokers is a machine gun called an automated background check report.  The automated background report is a listing of “possible cases” and not really a true final Report after diligence or investigation.   This means it just accuses a person but really doesn’t give any definitive matches to the actual candidate.

The motive is greed.  The sources often have limited identifiers on their electronic record such as first initial only or year of birth (but not full date of birth. ) So a computer creates a list of matches to R. Davis and Ryan Davis and approximate age.  More identifier information is available by pulling the case, looking at the affidavit for more identifiers, and comparing the job candidate to the other case identifiers like address, middle name, driver license number.  But that would require extra human capital  and would take more time.  What’s the old saying? Time is money. 

The Sentence is Background checks must come around to full circle.  In the beginning it was investigation companies which performed investigations for high risk employment positions.  The costs were high and physical court research was manual.  Readily available public electronic information made data acquisition cheap so a large “information brokers” industry was born [offering reduced costs making background checks affordable for all employment positions.]  The largest “background check companies” are really not investigative at all, and all the data compiled still requires an analysis and investigative layer.

Because limited electronic identifiers appear to match on the surface but are not truly matched to people after closer examination, a computer algorithm will not solve the problem.  The solution requires a hands on approach and should be left to investigation companies to solve.

It also means every employer should recognize the problem automated background check reports have created for innocent people, and they will need to choose to do the right thing and not be co-conspirators in this problem.

So What can you do?

If your name is common you should find out what inaccurate information is out there which could taint you and hurt your job opportunities (so you can defend yourself.)

If you are an employer and see a long list of common name entries on a report from your current background check vendor, they are not following the FCRA and are not protecting consumer rights.  You can make a vendor change and do the right thing for all your job applicants.

If you know someone which has a common name, you should help them get informed by sharing this article.

We want to hear from you about this issue.  Share your story.  Make comments about the impact bad background check reports have harmed you. 



1 Comment to “Assault on American Common Names in the Mis-Information Age”

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