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Background Checks in the Sharing Economy

A billion-dollar industry has grown up over the past decade around sharing resources such as temporary jobs, transportation, and housing. Along with this explosive growth has raised questions about safety and background checks. These screenings fall outside the standard protocols but are nevertheless critical to ensuring all parties’ integrity. At the moment, there is no standard across the industry for background checks, leaving questions such as the following unanswered:

What constitutes a background check?

The phrase “background check” means vastly different things to different people. Is it an online search of social media and public records, a deep dive into an individual’s history, or something in between? Claiming your organization does background checks gives very little information about the credibility of the results. 

Again, what does a background check mean?

Even if a sharing economy background check standard is established, the devil will be in the details. Not every background check is created equal. Consider the following nuances in the process:

  • Did the background screener search counties adjoin those where the individual lived for criminal records?
  • Were international records checked?
  • Did the background check look into gaps in employment history?

These are just a few of the numerous details that need to be considered when defining and standardizing peer-to-peer background checks.

How are identities checked?

A critical component of a background check is identity verification. In a traditional employment situation, the candidate undergoes a personal interview during the application process. The employer can visually compare the person with their identification. However, in the sharing economy, it’s not unusual for transactions to take place 100% online; the parties never meet face to face. Without a personal meeting, it’s impossible to know whether the background being checked belongs to the individual in question or someone else entirely. Said another way, people concerned about their ability to pass a background check can circumvent the process by submitting another person’s details. 

The Future

As the sharing economy continues to grow and expand, so will the risk of consumers being hurt by criminal providers. Developing a standard for background checks will benefit consumers and providers. Such an approach will allow providers to demonstrate a commitment to safety and distinguish themselves from their competitors. This can only be accomplished when all the relevant stakeholders – consumers, service providers, legislators, and screening professionals—come together. With the right due diligence and the help of advanced technology and background check experts, a clear protocol can be defined that helps all parties involved. 

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