The one, true, database

Three times in the past week, I’ve been asked about database access someone could use that would ‘be like what the FBI and CIA see’ – where you see everything about a person. I blame Hollywood for this misconception; especially shows like Criminal Minds, where someone at a computer has seemingly unfettered and immediate access to everything – from floral delivery records, farmers market vendor history, to school discipline history. That simply doesn’t exist.


Does all of that data exist? Certainly, though many times it’s on paper with no computer alternative; and even those that are computerized are not all available from a single point. The reality is that there are thousands upon thousands of databases, and while you may have an aggregator collect some, they are unlikely to collect them all.

Recently, one of my client’s came to me with the results of an online ‘Nationwide Criminal Background Check’. It primarily contained speeding tickets out of South Carolina; despite the subject of the check living the majority of her adult life in another state. After some research, it turned out that the ‘Nationwide Background Check’ only covered 6 of the 159 counties in Georgia. Querying the records at the Clerk of Courts in the counties where the woman resided revealed a half-dozen convictions, with evidence of substance abuse and violence. Of course, none of those records were available online. I frequently refer folks to the Public Records Retriever Network; let those folks be your boots on the ground. They are experienced, understand where the records are and how to locate them.

How a real background investigation works

We’ve gotten used to, as a society, of accepting a criminal records history as being the background of someone. And while a criminal history is an important part of someone’s background; it’s far from everything.

Is there a history of civil lawsuits? What do those suits allege? Is that problematic behavior? What do his coworkers and neighbors have to say about his behavior and ethics? How is his employment record? Each of those may be an important part of the person’s background. Or, they might be unimportant to you.

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