What if Crucial Information Becomes Inaccessible on a Public Record?

I was a criminal research analyst in Gwinnett County, Georgia for a few years in the mid-2010s, a period during which an influx of new jobs in film, tech, and various other industries combined with affordable housing resulted in unprecedented economic and residential growth in the Metro Atlanta area. If the sheer volume of daily rush hour traffic in the same area today over half a decade later is anything to go by, it’s apparent the already dense population of Gwinnett County is rapidly growing at an even more alarming rate than it was at that time.

As consumers continue to concentrate around major metros like Atlanta and Los Angeles, personally identifiable information (PII) such as date of birth and social security numbers becomes vital for record researchers. Without it, the rental housing industry, employers, and the banking and insurance sectors will not go unscathed.

The larger and more densely populated the area, the higher the probability of common names (i.e. John Smith, Michael Johnson, Matt Williams, etc.). Even some not-so-common names can generate multiple results for the same name search, which can stagnate the overall workflow and impede the efficiency of the researchers and, in turn, reduce the turnaround time of filtering data inquiries and generating background reports. When the odds of potential crossover between two different individuals on a report are higher, PII becomes even more crucial and heavily relied upon.

Now, what if the individual’s date of birth was inaccessible on a public record?

This is the current reality of the court systems in California. Last year, the court case All of Us or None of Us v. Hamrick, which sought to redact date of birth information and driver’s license numbers from court records – and succeeded – effectively barred consumer reporting agencies, data providers, and criminal background researchers from using their primary identifiers to report criminal and eviction information on any individual they have a search order for. Needless to say, in a state much larger and with a much larger population than that of the Metro Atlanta area, this motion has detrimentally affected a myriad of demographics, including, but not limited to renters searching for a new home, individuals seeking employment, employers hiring those prospective candidates, etc. The effects of redacted date of birth information are not so one-sided, either. Whether it’s a false positive regarding a hit on a criminal background check purely due to the individual having the same name, or the multitude of relevant search results with the same name (due largely in part to court databases being updated by the court’s clerks very rarely, if at all, depending on the court), the inability to make the distinction between two individuals drastically increases the amount of time it takes to report the information as accurately as possible.

When the odds of potential crossover between two different individuals on a report are higher, PII becomes even more crucial and heavily relied upon.

Introduced on February 22nd, 2022 and authored by Senator Steven Bradford of California (D-Inglewood), SB-1262 would effectively nullify the rulings of All of Us or None of Us v. Hamrick by reinstating both aforementioned redacted PII on all public documents. While the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA) and the Processional Background Screening Association (PBSA), as well as a number of other organizations have expressed support of the bill, such support is not unilateral, and the possibility remains that the bill could yet die in committee, keeping these worrisome restrictions in place and affecting the personal and professional lives of countless individuals and their industries.

As a millennial professional, a husband, a new father, and a recent addition to the team at CIC, I cannot help but wonder if I would even have my new job or if the roof over my family’s head would be the same were these restrictions in place here in Georgia. No one’s life or opportunities should be negatively impacted by such easily reversible parameters. My fervent hope for California is that the assembly voting on the senate bill believes the same.

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