FTC Weighs in on Mobile Background Checks

Angela Preston

Mobile apps that let you “look up before you hookup” or check on your cheating spouse are popping up everywhere. Yesterday the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned six companies that the use of their mobile apps to conduct background checks may violate the law. The FTC sent letters to Everify, Inc., marketer of the Police Records app, InfoPay, Inc., marketer of the Criminal Pages app, and Intelligator, Inc., marketer of Background Checks, Criminal Records Search, Investigate and Locate Anyone, and People Search and Investigator apps.

The agency warned that if the marketers of these apps have reason to believe that they are being used for employment screening, housing or credit, they must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and related laws that protect consumers. Background screening apps usually include criminal records, which bear on an individual’s character and general reputation and are typically used in employment and tenant screening. If you are using an app for one of those specific or related purposes, you are subject to consent requirements, releases, notification requirements, and a whole bunch of other hoops that regulators enforce protect consumers.

“If you have reason to believe that your background reports are being used for employment or other FCRA purposes, you and your customers who are using your reports for such purposes must comply with the FCRA,” the FTC letters say. The agency stopped short of making any determination of violations, but it did urge the marketers of these services to be sure to comply with the FCRA. So before you reach for your iPhone to use that sleaze detector, make sure you know your obligations under the law. Right now, there is no app for that.

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