National Criminal Database: Only the FBI Has One

fbi-logoThe idea of having access to a national criminal database is highly popular among companies screening employees, due to the high cost and amount of time it takes. Unfortunately, while there are commercial services that provide what they call a national criminal database, a true national criminal database is available only to the FBI. This is because in order to have access to all relevant criminal information across the country, you must have the right credentials and authority.

There are other issues which casts doubt on the accuracy of any database claiming to be a national criminal database (except for the FBIs). Consider these:

Data Accuracy
The accuracy of the data contained in a national criminal database is more subject to error than local database or research, simply because more people and processes have been involved in obtaining it. You should not rely on a national criminal database alone as a screening process – it at best supports other checks carried out.

Some States/Counties Don’t Sell Their Records
Some states and some counties do not sell their records to providers. This means that a service advertising itself as a national criminal database, based on the fact that it collects records across the country, does not in fact have all the records across the country. As a result, you could find yourself hiring someone who had a criminal history in one of these states or counties, but which wasn’t revealed or disclosed in the screening process.

Identify Theft Laws
New laws enacted by state legislatures to protect people from identify theft limits access to consumers’ information. Good for the consumer – more than 15 million people have been victims of identity theft – but bad for any background service provider attempting to put together a national criminal database. This means an incomplete profile of a potential hire can result.

FCRA Regulations Limits Access
Last, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (enacted in 1970), which regulates the collection and use of consumer information, in effect limits access to third party access to criminal databases. This is yet another cause for inaccuracy and incomplete data in a commercial, national criminal database.

Take a look at this simple explanation on VICTIG.com to find out more about how FBI criminal records work.