Technology can and must play a part in supporting public safety

As a background screening company, our main goal is to reduce risk by helping build trust between people and organisations.  

This supports recruitment by helping  get the right people into the right roles and builds great working relationships between organisations through KYC and screening of suppliers.  

Mostly this is to make sure that someone is who they say they are, is qualified as they claim to be, and doesn’t have a past, or lack of skills, that could put people or organisations in danger. 

Every day we hear stories of the consequences of an employment process that is not fit for purpose, and this isn’t just at the lower levels of a company structure either. 

Last month, a former NHS hospital boss narrowly avoided jail after lying on his CV, meanwhile there were fears that a council’s background screening process had failed and a sex-offender may have been driving children to and from school

While these cases are extreme, they are not uncommon and, alongside those that are regulated, responsible organisations are also starting to recognise the importance of pre- and post-employment screening. 

Demand for access to various types of personal data, has therefore never been so high and we are witnessing this increase first-hand.  

In 2019 we had an 88% jump in the number of people we checked. While this rise is significant, it’s what we found that matters the most. 

  • 60% of people lied on their CV (60.8%) 

  • Almost 3 out of 10 people had a major discrepancy on their CV, these included: 

  • fake degrees 

  • never working where they claimed to 

  • dates and position vastly different 

  • These major discrepancies were found in: 

  • 13% of qualifications 

  • 13% of employments 

  • 15% of memberships and licences 

The numbers above are quite eye-opening, but they wouldn’t have been achievable without a perfect balance of technology and humanity. 

Managing this workload with just a human workforce would be impossible, and so the development of our own API gives us, and our clients, the ability to access masses of data at the touch of a button. 

In fact, technology is proving so important to the background screening and recruitment sector that a third of our checks are made via our API. 

But it’s not just about efficiencies in time. The (secure) free flow of data is also bringing down the cost of that data. 

We saw last year how the Disclosure Barring Service (DBS) reduced their prices, we also know the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) have been reducing the cost of their data almost year by year. 

The lower the data cost is, the more demand is being created for it which helps reduce it further. 

But what next? As demand for the data increases, so does the need for that data to be delivered quickly. 

We are already moving towards instant background checks in as many areas as we can, allowing some checks deliver almost instant results. Just a few months ago they may have taken a few days or even weeks to return results. 

This creates an almost self-service feeling for the consumer and means a recruiter can check if an applicant is safe to employ at the click of a button, this is particularly important for temporary staff or the sharing economy. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean we’ve reached the pinnacle of our progress. Innovation in technology must always continue to solve further problems, and the focus of how that technology is used may also change. 

For example, the ‘land grab’ of adding data will switch to finding smarter ways to make sense of it and distribute it when needed. Finding connections between dispersed databases will also be able to predict future behaviour through better use of more intelligent AI. 

The public are increasingly putting pressure on Governments and large corporations to make the data they hold more open; we’re seeing responses to this pressure already with open government and open banking initiatives.  

But this does not mean the data will come directly from the custodians of that data, as most individuals and companies don’t have the ability to access the raw data.  

Companies, like Verifile, will instead act as a ‘middle-man’ using self-developed APIs and technology to allow the data to be accessed and then distributed responsibly and appropriately.  

There is a natural fear from the public sector that this data could be misused. This is not necessarily a bad thing though. Legislation like GDPR has been created to ally these fears and it hasn’t been the hinderance to data sharing some had feared.  

In fact, it’s helped the public to take more control of their data and, rightly so, highlight the companies who can be truly trusted to manage data responsibly. 

And the amount of data they handle is growing each year. In 2017 data was doubling every 13 months, it is expected to start doubling every 12 months by the end of this year.  

Almost every action we make today as humans is recorded by sensors and other devices. This always-on data collection phenomenon is pushing this increase in knowledge.  

But this growth should be taken with a pinch of salt. Fake universities are as old as the idea of university education itself, add this to fake news, fake users and fake clicks, and fake data accounts for 40% of data on the internet.  

By partnering with agencies like Verifile to act as compliance agents, Governments can reduce the risk of data misuse and increase accuracy considerably, while also easing the burden of dealing with the public at large.  

No more perfect example of this is with the DVLA starting to use APIs through partner agencies to share their data. Previously the older paper version of accessing their data meant a time consuming, costly and almost impossible process of verifying drivers pre- and post-employment. 

Now, with APIs allowing an easy data transfer through technology, every fleet manager or employer can access DVLA data quickly and cheaply, and demand has skyrocketed. 

As we enter an era where the term ‘knowledge is power’ has never been more important, technology like quantum computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning and other similar concepts must be utilised to allow easy, but responsible, access to data.  

When it comes to background screening, technology really will make sure that public safety is a priority. 

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