Home / Background Checks / Are Background Checks Ethical?



The newest addition to getting to know someone better these days seem to be running a background check. Businesses use them to pre-screen prospective employees and individuals who are forming new relationships with strangers use this to make sure they aren’t befriending a serial killer.

Thing is people don’t always tell us who they are and we need to do some digging for ourselves in order to verify the details and put our minds at ease. The question still remains though; is it ethical to run a background check on someone?

The dictionary tells us that being ethical relates to moral principles and the branch of knowledge relating to it. So that means that by doing some research on someone are you respecting their privacy, their right to individualism, and when you have the information you needed, would you be offending them by using it for your own personal gain?

There’s a rather fascinating article that deals with Googling someone before you meet them and what the implications can be, if you would like more insight on this, take a look here.

When it comes to background checking for employment related issues there are a few things that clearly state that this is an unavoidable and integral step that should be taken before new employees can be hired. You have to be sure that you are employing someone that would be the right fit to wear the face of the company and that won’t put your business and other employees at risk.

Although it might seem like just part of the process, you should always keep in mind that background checks should always be permitted by the person you want to run the search on.

What companies do with their findings makes or breaks their ethical status. You can’t very well deny someone an opportunity based on the fact that he has a minor offence record that dates back 10 years. In the same way you can’t research their financial history and connect that to pre-employment screening.

How much you need to know is a choice you have to make, but basically depicting an entire life story for a position that will only use the attributes the individual has today seems very unfair and unethical.

When you take matters into your own hands in a personal scenario and do your own investigation via platforms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, the grey area in being ethical comes alive. There’s a whole world of information that you could find, some that you would rather not have wanted to know.

What you choose to do with this information is up to you, but you really should be keeping your findings to yourself, or at the very least not tell your blind date that you Googled him and know where he lived 3 years ago.

A business owner doing some research on a prospective employee on social media sites and personal blogs remains however, a touch-and-go issue when it comes to being ethical.

Although they cannot use these findings against individuals, what they see about them on their profiles might give them reason not to want to appoint them, and there really isn’t anything stopping them from following this process.

So are background checks ethical? They are if and when they are conducted in the right way and when the information that comes back is used in the right way and the individual is in no way put at risk of having his right to privacy disregarded.


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