Rise of the Background Checkers: Why you have to manage your internet profile

by Foo Cheow Ming


Do you wish, at some point in your life, to become a professional, a government servant, an employee of a reputable MNC, or a director of a public listed company? Or to run for public office? Or to assume community or religious leadership? In short, to do anything or embark any endeavour in which you need to appear respectable? You should pay close attention this article.

The Rise of the Background Checkers

Two trends converge that create a potential cause for worry.

Firstly, social media such as Facebook, Blogger, Instagram, Twitter, and personalised websites whereby we openly and guilelessly share our photographs and opinions is now widely accepted. Even modest, unknown people acquire an increasingly high ”public persona”. What you post may then be copied and reposted by others. Your friends also take photographs and videos of you and then post it on their own social media platforms. In the era of the new media world, data is eternal. Persistency is now coupled with searchability. What goes on the Internet, stays on the Internet.

Secondly, there has been increasing use of background checking services by prospective employers/business-partners places. The state has never made it a secret that it vets the background of aspiring public servants. Now, it is easy for the commercial sector to do so too. Prospective employers in sensitive or self-image-conscious sectors such as offshore law firms, public listed companies, and financial institutions have been known to retain lawyers, private investigators and now background-checkers to carry out what is known as ”deep search” of prospective employee candidates.

Using your information against you

Let’s have a look at what background checkers claim to be able to dig up about you:

One lists: ”Corporate background verification, Employee background verification, Educational qualifications, International corporate records, Court record check, Criminal record check, Insurance claim verification”.

Of course, this is likely the tip of the iceberg. Background checkers are hardly likely to boast openly about techniques for stalking Facebook profiles.

In the process of background checks, any ”discrepancies” between what is claimed in your Resume and the truth will likewise emerge. According to Straits Times of 7 Oct 2014, it was reported that :-

”One such firm, First Advantage, screened about 10,000 job candidates here in the first three months of this year. It found that 18.8 per cent of them had discrepancies in their job applications. Over the same period last year, 12.09 per cent of the 9,000 screened had issues with their applications.

Another background check specialist, Hireright, screened about 700,000 candidates last year, and found that more than half (57 per cent) had discrepancies in their resumes, a small rise from 2012.

Common lies include inflating salaries and job titles, faking educational qualifications and when they left their previous employer, as well as making up reasons for their resignations.”

Managing your online profile

It is not possible in the digital age to restrict all information about yourself. Sources like court records and corporate records are mandated by law. However, there are some aspects of your profile within your control, and which you can think about:

What have you revealed about yourself on social media? How accessible are such revelations? Are there any embarrassments out there you do not ever wish to see the light of day?

Have you shared images/videos about yourself which background checkers would PAY your friends on social media to obtain access to?

How honest are you about yourself in your CV ?

In this day and age, every Internet-user must become conscious of his own Internet profile and image.

And remind your kids, too.

The author Foo Cheow Ming is an experienced criminal law practitioner. He is a director at Templars Law LLC.