FTC: Consumer Privacy Comments Concerning Global Intelligence Network, Inc.--P974806
GINI GLOBAL INTELLIGENCE NETWORK, INC.
"Granting Information Worldwide"
June 19, 1997
Secretary, Federal Trade Commission
RE:Comments to hearing of June 10, 1997
Dear Mr. Secretary:
In response to the Commission's request for additional comments following the hearing held June 10, 1997, I am impelled to write. As an Information Professional in North Carolina, I am a regular user of public and non-public (such as credit headers and worker's compensation records) information, and I urge you to examine the issue surrounding this hearing carefully.
My company specializes In pre and post employment screening. These discussions, and new introduction of bills, will ultimately affect my business, and my ability to provide service to my clients, The data in which we retrieve has a beneficial use and need in our society. The information we provide allows the public, who does not have the resources to manage all of the decisions they are faced with to defend itself. Further regulation of these records would create additional barriers to us that today allows individuals and businesses alike to make qualified decisions about who they hire, or do business with.
I am not a private investigator, and have no desire to become one. I do not provide surveillance services and I do not determine the whereabouts, or personal character of persons. Nor do I care about those things in my line of work. My job is to work for the employer, or other business entity, in verifying the freely volunteered information provided on an application for employment or other business contract. What I do is access public records.
In order to perform my job, I must use public records. Records that were set-up and are maintained by our government, at different levels. Changing, modifying, or prohibiting the access to such records literally renders us defenseless against unscrupulous persons who intend to hide their public history.
As an example, when I perform a criminal background on an individual seeking employment at any given company, I must use a social security number, name, date of birth, and other identifying information in order to obtain the record from the State and/or County repository. If I cannot obtain access to the SSN, I cannot obtain the record.
We are required to keep any and all information confidential and maintain a high degree of accuracy in our reports, as outlined in law. The reports are access through various repositories and then passed onto the client (the employer, etc.) for review in order to make qualified, informed decisions about the applicant. I am not against having some sort of limits on WHO can obtain such information, but I am against prohibiting the dissemination of the information. Due directly to the nature of my business.
I help to ensure the employer is fulfilling what is referred to as "due diligence". That legal theory that emerged some years, the one that states if employers have the ability to know your background, they had better know your background. Also the one that says if an employee causes harm to another employee, or customer, and that person had a previous record of such offenses, the employer can and will be held responsible if he failed to know that person had a tendency to commit such an act.
When I check the criminal history of an applicants my first step is to verify that person's residential history. I do this in order to know where to search for criminal activity. If I do not have access to that information, I cannot help to fulfill the employers "due diligence". If the records were to be prohibited, we would then have to rely on what the applicant tells us. Forgive me, but it is a known fact that more than 33% of individuals falsify their applications in one fashion or another. Mr. Secretary, we cannot rely solely on what the applicants tell us. Unfortunately, our society makes that more and more evident each and every day. We must look further to protect ourselves, our customers, and our businesses. We cannot do that if legitimate access to these records is denied or limited.
If we change the meaning of public records, we would virtually be changing the meaning of the Constitution. Our rights as citizens to access public records. Is it not our fight to know who lives next door to us, or who we are hiring into our workplace?
The concern I want to voice is that legitimate persons should continue to have access to these public records. Including address, telephone, and social security information. By legitimate, I refer to companies with a true "need to know", not just those who "want" to know. I agree, wholeheartedly, that the "average citizen" should be prohibited. or at least limited, to what access they have to information. I do not believe that SSN information should be freely accessed over the Internet.
Who's privacy are we talking about? Let's talk about social security numbers... why do we want to prohibit access to them? Why do people need them? There are many reasons. But why prohibit access? How are they being abused?? And, WHO is abusing them? If someone were to have my social security number; what could they possibly do with it? Moreso, why would they want to?
Further, I'd like to know who is complaining about this access to address and SSN? Are they persons who are trying to hide assets? Are they "bad guys" who don't want us to know that they are bad? It cannot possibly be the average citizen who does not try to deceive. Because, people who have nothing to hide do not worry about hiding. The social security number was invented as a unique identifier - one that only you have. An identifier that will stand you apart from every other person and number, and one that will remain with vou throughout your life.
We need these numbers in order to get a job to open a bank account, to obtain a passport, or to obtain credit cards. There are so many uses and needs for this number. If we need the number for so many things, why on earth are we going to limit access to it? This, I just do not understand.
What I do understand is that my job is hard enough. State and/or County agencies make it difficult to obtain public records (even though they are public records), and the fees are rising constantly as a result of the demand. Now, things stand to change in a way that will make my job that much more difficult.
Further, I see a trend that would either require me to become a PI, or attorney, or it would require me to get some other regulatory license. I am beginning to see this fights as a way to generate more income for states and/or governments, rather than a true issue of what is private, and why it should be private. And, who can and cannot have access to the information.
I ask you please to make sure that all sides are being heard on this issue. Do not just look at this from an individual citizens view. Look also to the views of America's businesses and employers. Look also to ensure that we are not making it easier for the unscrupulous person to remain unscrupulous. Do we not have the right to try and protect ourselves??
I am concerned about the future of the information industry. The governments and legal entities of our country invented this industry. Invented it by telling us we'd better know who we're dealing with or face the consequences. Thus, the industry was created so specific individuals could be trained at solely obtaining this information. And, so that our employers Would not be burdened with doing the cumbersome task themselves.
I ask you to see that there are more considerations on this issue. More than just a privacy issue. There are ways that privacy protection can be managed through uses and distribution. If access IS to be limited, ensure that the limits address the needs of those individuals and businesses who really do have a "need to know". Look further into the scenarios of those who state their privacy is being breached. Again, I ask you... WHO is abusing this information and HOW? Are the abuses truly abuses?
As a businesswoman, and citizen, I ask that you please ensure these concerns are heard. I know that there are many views on this subject. My only hope is that you look at all sides. Not just the side that will benefit the 'government' and not the people as a whole. I ask that you bring about policies and procedures that we can all live with in a free society. I remain,
Kimberly R. Smith
Kimberly R. Smith, President
2293 Smokey Park Highway Candler, NC