What’s your PII?

We’re not talking about a delectable dish of warm, sugary fruit bursting from the edges of a buttery crust with a dollop of pure vanilla bean ice cream dissolving from the pie’s warmth (but seriously, wouldn’t a piece of blueberry be divine right about now?). No, what we’re going for here is your personally identifiable information, or PII, for short.

Your PII is like your thumbprint, entirely your own, irreplaceable, and crucial to your identity. The problem is, your PII isn’t comprised of a fragile and unique map of minuscule ridges on your fingertips. It is, however, readily available at the fingertips of hungry identity thieves ready to devour your history. You see, your PII is this:

  • Full name
  • Birthday and birthplace
  • Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Vehicle registration plate number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Credit card number
  • National identification number

This information is the building blocks to any background check. Once it heads off shore, so does any US privacy and security laws. That’s why it’s imperative that your firm use a background screening company who has pledged to keep all data in-house, or at least on US soil.

Figuring out if this is the case may not be as easy as you think. Few companies want to own up to sending your applicants’ PII to India or Pakistan or Mexico because there is a stigma against off shoring. Not only is it difficult to keep track of the information once its on the digital highway, off shoring costs hundreds of Americans jobs at home grown small businesses every year.

Before we explain HOW you can figure out if your screening company is keeping things in house, we need to tell you WHY some screening companies ship info overseas.

They feel they can offer lower rates. We live in a competitive marketplace and price is often the deciding factor in choosing service providers. Off-shoring can be a way to slash overhead and undercut competitors’ prices. As this Credit Reporting Agency (otherwise known as a screening service, like Active Screening) writes in this blog post: “The fact is, when employers focus more on price than on quality, it’s tempting for screening providers to look offshore.”

They’ve grown too quickly. It’s a great thing when independent, American businesses succeed. We want that. You want that. What we don’t want is rapid expansion without forethought to accommodating product quality. When this happens, your data is off shored because it’s cheaper than halting growth to evaluate goals and procedures. As soon as that profit margin starts to build, it’s hard to step away from $$ signs even if your clients privacy is at stake. 

They’re lax on law. Compliance laws like the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) take time to understand and knowledge to implement in practice. If a screening agency simply doesn’t care about these laws, it may be apt to send your PII overseas to a country that doesn’t have privacy or data laws, or even standards about such things. Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that your PII is worth MONEY in these countries so if your screening agency is cheap enough to send your data to India, chances are they aren’t paying that person very much to verify your info, much less keep it off the black market.

So, what’s the best way to find out if your screening agency is shipping data off shore?

Ask. A screening firm is under no obligation to tell you if they are, but that would be such bad business we can’t imagine anyone actually doing that. There is further protection if you live in California. This bill asserts that background check companies doing business in the state disclose if a person’s PII will be sent outside the USA and it requires employers to place the privacy policy of the screening agency on the background check authorization form.

Look for the CRA seal. Roughly 200 Credit Reporting Agencies (Active Screening among them) have signed a “no off shoring” pledge and have promised to create and follow policies to keep all private data on American soil. These firms are a part of ConcernedCRAs.com, which is an advocacy partnership among quality background screening services to operate under the highest standards.

What other tips do you have for vetting your screening service? We’d love to hear them. In the meantime, we’ll be stuffing our face with pie.


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