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Under The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Title 5 of the United States Code, section 552, any person has the right to request access to public records: criminal records, arrests & warrants, inmate records, vital records & more.

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Common Background Check Laws and Regulations

Background check laws and regulations are imposed on both a state and federal level, and determine what types of information the public may access and under what conditions. Regardless of the reasons you may be conducting a background check into an individual's past, these laws apply to everyone and some apply only in special circumstances.


The Gramm-Leach Bliley Act


The Gramm-Leach Bliley Act, or GLB Act, was passed in 1999 and protects the financial privacy of individuals serviced by covered institutions. This act makes it nearly impossible to access someone's private bank account information, securities trades or other personal financial information by an institution, unless the person is a client of that institution. GLB also makes it illegal practice for financial institutions to share or sell the personal financial and account information of individuals.


Fair Credit Reporting Act


The FCRA, or Fair Credit Reporting Act, may not sound like it is concerned with protecting an individual's information during a background check. However, this act does cover background checks ordered by an employer that are conducted by an outside agency, and upon which employment decisions may be based. At the same time, an Applicant Release Form must be obtained from the individual to ensure the legality of this check. If the check is conducted by the employer or employment decisions will not be based upon the results, it does not fall under FCRA requirements and thus does not require the release.


Freedom of Information Act


The Freedom of Information Act requires covered federal agencies to disclose requested records to the public, with the exception of nine exemptions and three exclusions included in the statute. This act does not cover court records, Congress records, or those held by local and state courts. Each state maintains its own access and privacy laws in regard to records available to the public.


Federal Privacy Act


The federal Privacy Act protects the interests of individuals and their personal information. This statute regulates and restricts the information that the government can gather about an individual. It also requires federal agencies to provide the public a way to correct information that may be incorrect in their databases; in addition, it regulates the information one agency may share with another about someone.




FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, outlines who may access the private educational records of an individual. Essentially, only the student and parents of a minor student may access these records without written permission from one of these parties.


Other Important Laws


Other laws that affect background checks and the information you can access about a person include the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

These laws collectively govern the information you may and may not access about someone, as well as the information which may be shared with other parties. Each state maintains their own access laws regarding public records, so you may still be able to access information on a state level when it is unavailable through federal avenues.

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