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5 Technology Trends Impacting State and Local Governments

Contributed by the Community Editorial Team at Comcast Business
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March 01, 2018

State and local governments stand at the cusp of a technology renaissance, as new offerings and services are available to help agencies serve their constituents faster, more effectively and more efficiently. Technologies that once were thought of as “bleeding edge” now are increasingly ubiquitous, enabling government agencies to become more customer-centric in myriad ways, from answering billing queries to proactively identifying when customer data is being targeted by cybercriminals.

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According to research firm Gartner, government CIOs expect to spend 28 percent of their 2018 budget on digital initiatives designed to increase the value of government to constituents.[1] Technologies such as analytics, automation, artificial intelligence and even autonomous vehicles all have the potential to enable governments to offer services and aid their citizens in ways that not only can improve the customer experience, but also save governments time, money and labor.

Imagine logging on to a government website and being “recognized” through facial recognition, then “telling” the site what you’re looking for in plain English and receiving the results instantly. Or imagine a self-driving maintenance truck that “sniffs out” and automatically fills potholes without human intervention.

On the surface, this may sound like the stuff of science fiction. But these scenarios are coming closer to being reality, as technologies such as artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles are moving closer to the mainstream. And their effect on state and local governments would be transformational in providing services and keeping citizens safe from physical and cyber perils.

TECHNOLOGIES TO WATCH

The scope of technologies that can impact government services—and, in turn, our lives—is far-reaching, from robots that clean parks to systems that can create personalized cybersecurity by observing and learning from users’ behaviors. Some technologies are still more bleeding-edge than leading-edge, while others have the potential to be in service—and of service—today.

Five technologies in particular—artificial intelligence and robotics, autonomous vehicles, digital government, automation, and efforts to increase cybersecurity—demonstrate value to state and local government initiatives.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND ROBOTICS

Of all the technologies that can reap the largest benefit for governments, artificial intelligence is perhaps the one most likely to have the biggest impact. In fact, a number of agencies already are using AI to handle tasks quickly that otherwise would take much longer for humans to do, such as sorting through massive amounts of paperwork to find relevant information.

Law enforcement agencies are looking at artificial intelligence as a weapon to help fight crime by improving video surveillance, spotting criminals in crowds through facial recognition, and even helping reduce the amount of time police officers spend writing reports.

Beyond artificial intelligence, robotics is becoming a way for agencies to spend less and do more. Consultancy firm Deloitte highlights the coming of process robotics, which it describes as “… computer-coded, rules-based software that uses ‘bots’ to automate repetitive, rules-based tasks otherwise performed by humans. Requiring minimal system integration, bots can be deployed in as little as a few weeks depending on the complexity of the process.”[2] Any high-volume, rules-based work can be performed by process robotics, which helps free employees to focus on more valuable customer-facing activities.

Bots are already being used by agencies to help improve customer service. Chatbots in particular are being used to answer questions via the web without the need for customer service agents—a technology especially useful for agencies that are understaffed and don’t have dedicated customer-facing employees.

Deloitte estimates that employing AI technology in the government space could free up as many as 1.2 billion working hours every year, saving $41.1 billion.[3]

AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

While much of the conversation around government and autonomous vehicles has focused on legislating such technology, governments can benefit from the use of autonomous vehicles in multiple ways. Another Deloitte study notes that, as end users, agencies not only can improve their government-operated fleets, but also further the concepts of shared mobility and “other new types of travel through their procurement decisions.”[4]

The federal government operates a fleet of more than 600,000 vehicles, including U.S. Postal Service trucks and General Services Administration vehicles leased to various agencies.[5] In 2016, USPS vehicles were involved in about 30,000 accidents nationwide, resulting in about $67 million in repair and legal costs.[6] As a result, the agency is considering autonomous vehicles for its fleet, not only to help improve safety but also to increase productivity of letter carriers, who could ready the mail for deliveries during transit.

At the state and local level, highway maintenance departments could dispatch autonomous trucks to repair road damage such as potholes or broken curbs, clean debris from roads following a collision or events such as a parade, or clear snow and ice from roadways during inclement weather. Public transportation can also be a potential target for autonomous vehicles to help municipalities save on labor costs while keeping their fleets moving.

While autonomous vehicles can have the ability to negatively impact state and local budgets—the amount of revenue generated by traffic tickets is certain to decrease due to anticipated safer driving by autonomous vehicles—governments potentially have more to gain than lose from the technology, including decreased labor costs, increased productivity and lower legal costs related to vehicle accidents.

DIGITAL GOVERNMENT

The term “digital government” is an umbrella term used to describe technologies such as mobile services, common online identities and crowdsourcing—all designed to streamline services and improve the end-user experience.

Mobility in particular is an area where governments at all levels can increase the quality of their services and the efficiency of their employees. Apps can be used to access information quickly and easily, enabling citizens to, for example, see in real time where tree-trimming crews are slowing traffic or virtually check in to the local DMV office to avoid waiting in line. Mobile apps also can help government employees working offsite and in the field. Building inspectors can get instant access to building plans, permit applications and more, for example. Parks and recreation department workers can see the location and working status of every water fountain connected to an internet of things (IoT) sensor. And transportation department employees can remotely change the status of digital signage to alert motorists of changing traffic conditions.

Back-office systems that facilitate common identities for constituents also can help improve the user experience, especially when dealing with multiple agencies. Much like users can log on to various websites by connecting with social media sites such as Facebook, government agencies can use common identity systems to help simplify the process of accessing various agency sites to accomplish tasks, such as checking on the status of a request filed with the zoning commission or filing a police report for a hit-and-run traffic accident.

Crowdsourcing, once the purview of sites that harness user opinions to make recommendations on restaurants, hotels and more, is now joining the government fray, as more agencies are depending on the “wisdom of the crowd” to help collect and disseminate information. The federal government has established a site, citizenscience.gov, to help agencies encourage public participation to accelerate innovation. It features federal citizen science efforts in climatology, ecology and disaster response, among others, to help “engage the American public in addressing societal needs and accelerating science, technology, and innovation,” according to the site. At the state and local level, crowdsourcing can be used by agencies to gather real-time traffic information, monitor power outages and collect other data important to citizens, providing facts to the minute and on the fly.

AUTOMATION

Consultancy firm KPMG pegs automation as “the next step in government’s digital transformation,”[7] and with good reason: Automation is perhaps the most useful technology in terms of impacting government services from both the agency and the constituent perspectives. In particular, process automation can free employees from mundane tasks such as filing paperwork to concentrate on more meaningful projects or tasks that require their full attention, such as addressing constituent issues.

Automation is one step below artificial intelligence on the technology ladder; however, interest in “intelligent automation” is growing as a way to further enhance productivity while improving accuracy. Chatbots are a simple example of intelligent automation, while IBM’s Watson with its cognitive analytics, which has the ability to learn and solve problems, offers a prime example of more complex intelligent automation.

Automation is not a new concept in government or other industries, for that matter. However, as advances in artificial intelligence and robotics continue, automation will take on a much more important role in helping governments run efficiently and providing more valuable citizen services.

EFFORTS TO INCREASE CYBER SECURITY

As more processes and constituent interactions occur digitally, governments must do more to protect sensitive and valuable data from cyber threats. No longer should agencies worry about whether their systems will be breached; rather, they should worry about when their systems will be breached.

Researchers estimate damages from cyber crime will amount to $6 trillion worldwide annually by 2021.[8] Included in that amount are damage and destruction of data, embezzlement, stolen money, restoration and deletion of hacked data and systems, lost productivity, theft of intellectual property, forensic investigation, theft of personal and financial data, fraud, post-attack disruption to the normal course of business, and reputational damage.

As cyber threats continue to surge, so does the demand for qualified cyber security talent. However, a recent study by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education predicts there will be a worldwide shortage of 1.8 million skilled security workers by 2022.[9] Agencies must look for new and innovative ways, then, to secure their data and keep their systems safe from breaches and malicious activity.

The cloud is emerging as one tool in the fight against cyber crime, as technologies such as cloud workload protection platforms show promise in keeping data protected no matter where data resides—on-premises, in virtual machines or in cloud environments. Deception technologies, which are designed to throw off a would-be attacker, also can help, as well as endpoint detection and response solutions and network traffic analysis capabilities.

Artificial intelligence shows the biggest promise in improving cyber security, and is the technology upon which many of the new security solutions are based. It is evident that artificial intelligence will serve as the backbone for many, if not most, of the technologies powering the next generation of government services.

HOW THE NETWORK MATTERS WITH NEW-GENERATION TECHNOLOGIES

State and local governments are quickly reaching the point where adoption of new technologies is inevitable. Indeed, the efficiency and effectiveness of any government agency is dependent on the technologies it uses to provide services and protect the health and welfare of its citizens.

In preparing for their impending technology renaissance, agencies first must prepare their networks to certify they are able to handle the increase in demand. Artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, mobility and other technologies can stress the bandwidth of traditional networks and impact performance.

Agencies need to ascertain if they have the right foundation for both customer-facing and back-office operations, as well as new opportunities yet to be imagined. Today’s efficient networks comprise multiple technologies and platforms all chosen to ensure the solutions they support operate at peak performance without issue.

In building a network for the next generation of government services, agencies should consider an environment that includes both on-premises, cloud, and networking technologies such as SD-WAN and high-speed broadband to make certain traffic is handled efficiently over any type of network. And networking components such as WiFi and unified communications can ensure users of the network—employees and constituents—interact with each other using their preferred method of communication.

To help ease stress on an agency’s current network—not to mention the daily burden on IT managers—managed services can be utilized to offer certain constituent services, such as bill payments, without further impacting the network. Managed services can be used to help tie disparate systems together and “fill in the gaps” as agencies update their current infrastructure, and can prove useful even after networks have been upgraded.

Working with a network service provider can help ease the burden associated with building and maintaining a network capable of handling the bandwidth-intensive needs of the next generation of government services. By working with a third-party network services provider, agencies can leverage virtual and physical private Ethernet connectivity to assure critical applications perform as expected. They also can receive all or some of their most critical connectivity functions as a managed service, including managed connectivity, WiFi, security, voice and business continuity, among others.

CONCLUSION

New technologies loom on the horizon to help government agencies better serve their constituents, from answering billing queries to protecting sensitive data from cyber threats. The network on which these technologies run must be robust and flexible enough to handle the traffic and bandwidth demands of today and beyond.

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[1] “Gartner Survey Finds Government CIOs Spend 21 Percent of Their IT Budget on Digital Initiatives,” press release, Gartner, April 25, 2017 https://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3693017

[2] “Process robotics in the federal government,” Public Sector Solutions web page, Deloitte, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/public-sector/solutions/federal-government-process-robotics.html

[3] William D. Eggers, David Schatsky, Dr. Peter Viechnicki, “How artificial intelligence could transform government,” executive summary, Deloitte, April 26, 2017, https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/focus/cognitive-technologies/artificial-intelligence-government-summary.html?_ga=2.17808368.871295872.1509472479-881865455.1507121216

[4] RJ Krawiec, Vinn White, “Governing the future of mobility,” Deloitte, Aug. 3, 2017, https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/focus/future-of-mobility/federal-government-and-transportation-of-the-future.html

[5] Ibid

[6] “Autonomous Vehicles for the U.S. Postal Service,” report, USPS Office of the Inspector General, Oct. 2, 2017, https://www.uspsoig.gov/sites/default/files/document-library-files/2017/RARC-WP-18-001.pdf

[8] “Official 2017 Annual Cybercrime Report,” Cybersecurity Ventures, October 2017, https://cybersecurityventures.com/hackerpocalypse-cybercrime-report-2016/

[9] “Global Cybersecurity Workforce Shortage to Reach 1.8 Million as Threats Loom Larger and Stakes Rise Higher,” news release, Center for Cyber Safety and Education, June 7, 2017 https://www.isc2.org/News-and-Events/Press-Room/Posts/2017/06/07/2017-06-07-Workforce-Shortage

 

Handling Candidate Data Will Be Under the Spotlight in 2019

Employment screening will benefit from AI, but the technology is not ready yet

By Roy Maurer, Online Manager/Editor, Talent Acquisition – SHRM Online – January 31, 2019

This is the second article in a two-part series. The first installment detailed the growing trends of social media screening and real-time employee monitoring, as well as the emerging acceptance of job candidates with criminal backgrounds.

 

Employers that conduct employment background checks will continue to feel the pressure to safeguard applicant and employee data in 2019. HR professionals will also be interested in how artificial intelligence (AI) technology will improve the screening experience, according to experts.

Data-Breach Concerns Lead to Increased Focus on Security

Data-breach protection, information security and compliance with privacy laws will be top of mind for those managing employment screening in 2019.

“The massive data breach suffered by nationwide credit reporting agency Equifax in September 2017 that impacted more than 145 million Americans—almost half of the country—was a wake-up call for all industries to improve their information security,” said Les Rosen, founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources, a background-screening firm in Novato, Calif. “The need for background-screening firms that handle the personal data of job applicants to ensure information security has become mission critical.”

[Visit SHRM’s resource page on background checks.]

Montserrat Miller, an attorney in the Atlanta office of Arnall Golden Gregory and co-chair of the firm’s privacy and consumer regulatory practice, advised HR professionals to ask their screening partners how they are safeguarding personal data and what their notification protocols are in case of a breach.

“In addition to following the Federal Trade Commission guidance on the proper data-security practices, businesses that utilize a consumer reporting agency for their background-screening services should be sure to partner with one that has achieved accreditation with the National Association of Professional Background Screeners,” said Christine Cunneen, CEO of Providence, R.I.-based background-check company Hire Image.

Rosen said that employers should also consider using background-check firms that undergo an annual Service Organization Control, or SOC 2, audit from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants to ensure high standards for the protection of privacy, security and confidentiality of consumer information used for background checks.

Miller added that “if HR prints the background-check reports for whatever reason, [the printouts] should be maintained in a confidential manner and not shared with anyone outside of the appropriate decision-makers.” She added that in accordance with the company’s data-retention policy, background-check reports must be disposed of properly, by destroying or erasing electronic files or shredding, burning or pulverizing paper documents.

Organizations conducting background screens of citizens of the European Union (EU) will also have to be mindful of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect in May 2018. The law requires that employers receive consent to process a subject’s data, ensure that collected data is made anonymous to protect privacy, make data-breach notifications, safely handle the transfer of data across borders, and in some cases, appoint a data protection officer to oversee compliance.

“If an employer in the U.S. has international operations, and if there is going to be any exchange of personal data from employees in the EU to the U.S., then it needs to be aware of GDPR and needs to make sure it is in compliance with it and that its vendors are in compliance with it,” Miller said.

The maximum penalty for noncompliance is up to 4 percent of an organization’s annual global revenue or 20 million euros—whichever is greater.

AI Improves Background Checks But …

The use of technologies such as AI, machine learning and automation will enhance background checks in 2019, but humans still need to be involved due to discrimination concerns.

“Background screeners haven’t fully adopted AI in the screening process yet, but we are seeing signs of it where screeners continue to automate their operations,” said Jason Morris, an employment-screening consultant and industry expert with Morris Group Consulting, based in Cleveland. “In the past, we would simply throw people at processes and increase our labor for searches,” he said. “Now AI allows us to automate and put machines in places of seats, allowing for a faster and in some cases a more accurate background check. It’s exciting to see screeners innovate, and I’m confident you will see AI continue to grow in the industry.”

Conal Thompson, chief technology officer at background-screening company HireRight, said that AI will play a major role in the employee screening and recruitment processes by reducing the time to hire, improving quality of hire and improving the candidate experience.

“In today’s competitive labor market, in which a positive candidate experience in the screening process plays a major role in candidates’ decisions to accept job offers, utilizing AI to interact with job applicants faster and more effectively can make a real difference,” he said.

“Without a doubt, cutting-edge technology like AI plays a vital role in what we do to enable companies to outsource social media screening in a smarter, cost-effective and efficient way,” said Bianca Lager, the president of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Social Intelligence Corp., a leading provider of social media screening reports. “Things like finding where people are creating content online and zooming in on places and types of content that could be risky for an employer are what AI is effectively delivering right now, which is a huge time and resource saver.”

Rosen added, “While there is no doubt AI technology and automation increase productivity, streamline processes and reduce turnaround time in the screening process, background checks still need a guiding human touch until sufficiently nonbiased AI algorithms can be created to ensure that discriminatory hiring decisions aren’t made.”

Since the AI buzz began, experts have been saying that “biased AI” can be created by algorithms shaped by human prejudices or insufficient data.

“Human augmentation is still incredibly important,” Thompson agreed. “Employers should keep in mind that most AI learns as it goes, which could present risks and have unintended consequences on the screening process. For example, if an AI application, after reviewing thousands of candidates for thousands of jobs, realizes that a significant number of candidates it has recommended has certain demographic attributes, it may bias its own algorithm with a preference for candidates who first meet those criteria.”

In addition, Lager cautioned HR buyers to be aware that just because a company markets itself as providing AI and machine learning doesn’t mean that it’s true. “Companies are taking giant liberties with those words as descriptions,” she said. “The key is to understand the limitations of that technology and how it affects the deliverable of the service or product you are buying. It is imperative to ask questions about consumer compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and how data is acquired.”

Five Predictions for How Technology Will Change Sports in 2019

Might the NFL launch an esports league in 2019? (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

By , Senior Writer – SportTechie /December 28, 2018

If 2018 were the year that sports betting was legalized, major deals were reached across mobile ticketing and biometric verification, and sports streaming services launched at an unprecedented pace, threatening to dethrone cable TV, 2019 will be the year they all hit a stride.

In 2019, niche sports will continue to grow in popularity as streaming services gain steam, sports betting will become accessible at venues, biometric IDs will be used to buy beer at games, esports will create further inroads in traditional sports, and athletes will further embrace wearable technology, digital video, and virtual reality to enhance their skills and marketability.

Sports Betting at Venues

States across the U.S. are working to adopt sports betting following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in May that opened up the legalization of gambling. One thing is for certain as we head into 2019: sports betting will be more commonplace and more widely accepted.

More states will move to embrace betting while regulators start to pass laws that protect athletes, leagues, and gamblers. But another thing fans might come to expect in 2019 is access to sports betting terminals at the venues themselves. In November, MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren hinted at this possibility at a conference. Murren said that MGM, which owns the Vegas Golden Knights’ T-Mobile Arena alongside AEG, was eyeing plans to test sports betting kiosks at the venue during Knights games. Murren shortly thereafter hedged that statement, saying that it wasn’t in the cards just yet. But his intention has been set.

Elsewhere in the sports world teams and leagues will continue to work sports betting capability into new and existing apps. Interactive mobile game maker Xperiel is currently working with MGM Resorts and the New York Jets to build sports betting into the Jets’ existing in-app prediction game, “I Called It.”

“Sports gambling becomes less of a gamble,” said Xperiel cofounder and CEO Alex Hertel in a note on 2019 tech predictions. “We will see a rift between the desires of the gambler and the regulating bodies that could end up driving some sports betters away. Immersive technology that engages fans will help make them stay.”

Mobile Ticketing and Biometrics

In 2019, mobile ticketing might not just become commonplace to pass through many venue gates, but it may become required. Meanwhile fans will be increasingly incentivized to use their biometrics for verification.

In 2018, major ticketing companies, from Ticketmaster to Seatgeek, moved to couple together the primary and secondary ticketing markets to help teams maintain control over prices and attendance data. After the NFL expanded its partnership with Ticketmaster in 2017 in an attempt to control more secondary-market sales, in 2018 a number of teams started to embrace a mobile-first ticketing strategy. This will continue into the new year, but with the added integration of biometrics.

In the MLB, biometric verification company Clear (which has a presence alongside TSA Pre✓ at airports) entered into a multi-year deal this past year with the league and its ticketing partner Tickets.com to do just that. As part of the deal, Clear agreed to leverage Tickets.com’s API to enable members to link their Clear profile with their MLB.com account to gain entry into games with a fingerprint scan. In the near future, facial recognition is expected to be added as well. The partnership was piloted at select MLB ballparks this past season, with a broader roll-out planned for 2019.

Also next year, biometric verification will expand beyond the gates and into venues. Clear was approved in the state of Washington this year to use its services to verify identities of people looking to purchase beer at Seattle Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders games. The company has since been in talks with regulators in other states to expand this elsewhere in the U.S.

Streaming and Consolidation

A number of streaming services offering extensive live sports programming launched in the U.S. this year, from ESPN+ to DAZN. This has created a fragmented market for sports streaming, while enabling fans to reduce their dependence on traditional cable. In 2019, streaming brands will scoop up new digital rights at a rapid pace, spanning not only major sports but niche ones as well.

We’ve already started to see this, with NBC adding a number of niche sports (from skiing to motocross) on its paid streaming service NBC Sports Gold. ESPN+ has similarly emphasized lesser-known sporting events, while DAZN has entered the U.S. market with a focus on combat sports.

In the new year, digital rights will continue to find their way into the hands of these major players, which will help to tighten their hold on the market. This might also give some of these streaming companies the fuel to begin trouncing (and potentially even scooping up) some rivals, igniting a more mature wave of consolidation within the industry.

Wearables and Privacy

In 2018, Whoop, the wearable company that partnered with the NFL Players Association last year to track player strain and recovery, secured a $25 million Series C funding round led by UAE71 Capital with participation from the NFLPA, Kevin Durant, and former NBA Commissioner David Stern.

In 2019, wearables and RFID trackers will continue to be pushed onto athletes to meet the insatiable appetite of fans and coaches for data. But with this proliferation of wearable devices in professional sports, innovation will continue to push against privacy.

The NFL’s CBA is set to expire in 2020. The next wave of negotiations between the league and NFLPA will likely begin in 2019, bringing many of these issues to the forefront. Under the terms of the NFLPA’s deal with Whoop, NFL players maintain ownership of their health data, and are also able to commercialize that data through the NFLPA’s licensing program.

According to Sean Sansiveri, the NFLPA’s vice president of business and legal affairs, if a market for athletes’ biometric data should ever arise, the union will have an established mechanism in place to ensure that professional football players are not only protected but also well-positioned to profit off their private data if they choose to do so. The Supreme Court’s ruling on sports betting in May, and the expanding state-by-state legalization of sports betting, might well create exactly that market.

NFL Launches an Esports League

While esports and traditional sports merged at an unprecedented rate this year with the launch of the NBA 2K and investments in esports teams by sports franchises, this trend will accelerate in 2019. NASCAR has already announced that it is hopping on the esports league bandwagon heading into the new year. The NFL has been slower to adopt esports, however the league earlier this year posted a job looking for a “head of gaming and esports” that would be based in its New York headquarters and lead the “strategic planning, partner management and execution of the League’s gaming efforts.” Perhaps 2019 is the year that Madden NFL gamers can go pro.

3 Employment Screening Trends to Know Before You Hire in 2019

Roy Maurer
By Roy Maurer, Online Manager/Editor, Talent Acquisition – SHRM Online
January 23, 2019

This is the first article in a two-part series. The next installment will examine how employers can ensure data security in the screening process and what to expect with forthcoming artificial intelligence technology.

Employers are ramping up their use of social media screening and real-time employee monitoring in 2019. And the demand for workers in a tight labor market will push more companies to consider applicants they may have once ignored: those with criminal records.

[SHRM resource page: Background Checks]

Social Media Checks

Employers have shown increasing interest in screening candidates’ online presence.

In 2019, more background-check providers will offer online and social media searches as part of their suite of products, but employers must ensure that these searches protect candidate privacy and don’t run afoul of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) or standards set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

“Social media screening presents opportunities for recruiters to find candidates and to reduce risk, but at the same time, these searches can create a legal minefield of potential liability,” said Les Rosen, founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources, a background-screening firm in Novato, Calif.

Interest in social media screening has grown significantly over the last few years, said Bianca Lager, the president of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Social Intelligence Corp., a leading provider of social media screening reports. “We now see almost daily news stories of someone getting into trouble with their employer over what they’ve written online,” she said. “Hiring companies know they can’t get away with ignoring social media as part of the background-screening process any longer, but the DIY approach is incredibly troubling for candidates in terms of privacy, accuracy and discrimination.”

If HR professionals are conducting their own online searches on job candidates, they need to stop, said Montserrat Miller, an attorney with Arnall Golden Gregory, based in Atlanta. “The potential for a discrimination claim far outweighs the cost of adding a social media screening option from a vendor.”

Rosen said that employers should be wary of discovering too much information—or “TMI”—on social media. ” ‘TMI’ means by looking at [an applicant’s] social media site or perhaps a photo or something that they have blogged about, you are going to learn all sorts of things as an employer you don’t want to know and [that] legally cannot be the basis of a decision,” he said. Job applicants can sue employers for discrimination if they believe they were not hired due to protected characteristics covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

“Even the appearance of a decision not to hire someone based on a negative impression related to race, gender, religion, or other protected classes could subject [employers] to a discrimination lawsuit,” said Christine Cunneen, CEO of Providence, R.I.-based background-check company Hire Image.

Experts agree that if employers decide to screen an applicant through social media, the best way to reduce legal risk is by having a third-party vendor perform the search instead of doing it in-house. Background-check providers that perform social media screening must comply with the FCRA and produce accurate reports scrubbed of protected characteristics.

“Social media reports won’t show whether or not someone is Muslim or gay or a military veteran, to protect the employer from a discrimination claim,” Miller said. “They will only provide instances of actionable, offensive information, for example relating to criminal activity, violent behavior or making racist comments.”

Cunneen added that employers need to be careful not to violate candidate privacy. Social media screens should be drawn only from user-generated, publicly available information and not from third-party content or password-protected sites. “If the applicant’s social media settings are set to public, that information is open for anyone, including potential future employers, to review,” she said. “However, if their profile is set to private, the employer cannot try to bypass those settings without risking exposure to potential liability down the road.”

Continuous Monitoring

New technology lets companies go beyond pre-employment checks and rescreens to real-time monitoring of current employees for warning signs of illegal or other concerning behavior.

“Employee monitoring is one of the biggest trends I’m seeing,” said Jason Morris, an employment screening consultant and industry expert with Morris Group Consulting in the Cleveland area.

“Justifiably, employers will always want to know who is working for them—not just [during] hiring but throughout their employment relationship,” Cunneen said. “A current employee can engage in illegal behavior as much now as he or she could have before they were an employee.”

Uber announced plans last year for ongoing monitoring of arrest and conviction data on their drivers. “These tools have been around for a while, but end users are finally seeing the benefits, and the data is getting better,” Morris said.

Uber teamed with San Francisco-based screening firm Checkr to get continuous updates about drivers’ records, including new criminal violations and license suspensions. The technology will notify Uber, for example, when a driver is charged with driving under the influence.

“It is a subscription that listens to a candidate’s data over time, looking for and identifying changes in their background to mitigate risk for companies,” said Tomas Barreto, vice president of product and engineering at Checkr. If new information triggers a full background check, the worker is also notified, he said.

“While there are some industries whose regulations have mandated continuous or some form of periodic screening, such as health care, we are seeing more industries embrace the idea,” said Melissa Sorenson, executive director of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. “Like any background-screening program, it’s important for employers to ensure they follow both federal and state law related to background screening—including following disclosure and authorization requirements before conducting a background check, as well as adverse action processes in the event that the results of the background check lead the employer to consider not hiring, promoting or retaining the individual.”

Hiring People with Criminal Records

Research shows a majority of HR professionals find little difference in quality of hire between applicants with and without a criminal record.

“The fact that employers cannot find workers due to the current labor shortage has caused them to turn to an untapped and underutilized source of labor: ex-offenders and [former] inmates from the approximately 20 million Americans who have been convicted of a felony,” Rosen said.

The Prison Policy Initiative calculated the ex-offender unemployment rate to be 27 percent, higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate at any time, including during the Great Depression.

Alonzo Martinez, associate counsel for compliance at background-screening company HireRight, said that with the number of unfilled positions now exceeding the labor pool, employers are recognizing the potential in this previously untapped group of candidates.

“While a criminal record should never be an automatic deal breaker—especially for candidates who have misdemeanors on their records, have served their time or have been rehabilitated—in the current market, employers are increasingly considering candidates with criminal records and redefining policies and requirements to lower some of the barriers to employment that ex-offenders face,” he said.

“Companies recognize that hiring from this population is the right thing to do, but it’s also good business,” said Richard Bronson, the founder and CEO of 70MillionJobs, the first for-profit job board specifically for job seekers with criminal records.

“Companies are motivated by the bottom line, and they recognize that unfilled jobs are costly. Every single company I talk to says they are facing a staffing shortage or they have trouble retaining their workers, particularly at the lower end of the wage scale. Perhaps they would not have been eager to consider this population before, but I think they generally recognize that they can ill afford to ignore any large pool of talent out there, and this is arguably one of the largest. One in three adults have a record of some kind.”

The industries most hospitable to people with criminal records have been call centers, construction, health care, manufacturing, retail, and transportation and warehousing. “The technology sector has been woefully reticent to take action,” Bronson said. “They talk a good game but don’t deliver when it comes to actually hiring.”

Martinez said HR must be cognizant of the challenges involved with screening the ex-offender population, such as a longer turnaround time to ensure a complete assessment.

“Companies should continue to perform thorough background checks and conduct individualized assessments of candidates with criminal history, per EEOC guidance,” he said. “It would also benefit companies to review their hiring requirements to determine the types and depth of screening that is necessary for each job position. This can reduce the volume of acceptable hires that are unnecessarily flagged for additional review for reasons that are not related to the role’s responsibilities.”

Sprint Sues AT&T Over ‘5G E’ Branding

Dan Jones
News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor – For Light Reading

2/8/2019

Sprint is suing AT&T and claiming that the labeling of its 4G-Advanced services as “5G E” on many 4G smartphones is “deceptive.”

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) filed a complaint against AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) Thursday evening with the New York State Southern District court accusing AT&T of “deceptive advertising” over the “5G Evolution” service.

“AT&T has employed numerous deceptive tactics to mislead consumers into believing that it currently offers a coveted and highly anticipated fifth-generation wireless network, known as 5G,” Sprint said in the complaint. “What AT&T touts as 5G, however, is nothing more than an enhanced fourth-generation Long Term Evolution wireless service, known as 4G LTE Advanced, which is offered by all other major wireless carriers.”

The crux of the issue, Sprint notes, is that AT&T used a “software update to change the screens of mobile phones and tablets operating on the AT&T 4G LTE Advanced network to indicate falsely that these devices are connected to a 5G network.”

AT&T offers a number of modern Apple and Samsung smartphones that display the “5G E” branding on screen when using LTE-A connections.

AT&T’s CEO responded on CNBC’s Squawk Box show Friday that the AT&T offering is evolutionary but not deceptive. “We’re being very clear with our customers that this is an evolutionary step.” Randall Stephenson said. (AT&T executives have also previously defended the marketing, see AT&T’s Donovan Defends the Carrier’s 5G Fibs.)

Rival carriers have also widely panned AT&T’s move. (See Verizon, AT&T Spar Over 5G Service Names, Marketing.)

The kerfuffle over the “5G E” branding initially started in the press back in January. AT&T, however, started updating a planned 400 4G markets as with LTE Advanced upgrades, such as updated antenna arrays back in April 2018. (See AT&T Rolls Out Faux 5G in 100+ US Markets.)

Sprint is seeking to block AT&T from using “5G E” or other related terms with this complaint.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading