2 Reasons to Avoid Internet Background Checks

The internet has created a new phenomenon for employers who want more information on an applicant before hiring them. All they could ever want to know about the candidate is tantalizing close—literally, right in front of their nose. Employers should proceed with caution, though, into the murky waters of internet background checks for two major reasons.

internet background check

Legal Issues

Legal issues are the most important reason employers should be leery of running an internet background check. All state and federal laws that apply to traditional background checks also apply to internet background checks. Many employers  use a third-party agency, known as a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), to perform background checks for them. Such agencies are governed by the FCRA and any CRA reports, internet backgrounds or court records, must comply with federal and state law.

Other businesses prepare background checks in-house by googling names, searching Facebook for candidate profiles, or using free or inexpensive online databases. If any information garnered from the internet is used in making a hiring decision without appropriate, legal methods of reporting, employers face the risk of legal action.

internet background check

Another legal issue that may arise from internet background checks is that the employer may discover information that is considered protected under law such as gender, race, and religion. Some social platforms allow users to see when their profile has been viewed, and if an applicant sees that a potential employer viewed his profile and did not offer a position, he may have support for legal action, according to SHRM.

Accuracy Issues

In addition to the legal issues that stem from internet background checks are accuracy issues. One issue that may prevent complete accuracy on an internet background check is multiple people with the same name. For instance, the chances are high that if your applicant’s name is John Smith there are other John Smiths with an internet presence. There isn’t always a way to ensure that the applicant John Smith is the same John Smith who posts content that may disqualify him from your company’s position on his social profiles.

internet background check

Another related issue is a sort of “online-identity theft.” Social platforms don’t have a good way of preventing a person from creating a profile in another person’s name and posting inappropriate or slanderous content about that person or another person. Again, there is no definite way to verify that the poster is the applicant in question.

A final concern related to accuracy issues is slanderous information about a candidate posted by another person online. The internet should not be relied on as the go-to source for finding out adverse information, and one person’s online rant should not disqualify an applicant from a position without checking other reputable sources.


While internet background checks can provide useful information, employers should carefully consider state and federal hiring laws before running such checks themselves and should also consider employing a CRA to protect themselves from the associated legal and accuracy issues.

Disclaimer: The information in this post contains general information concerning internet background checks and should not be construed as legal advice.