Big Data, Background Checks, and Discrimination

The White House released a report to herald its focus on discrimination in “big data” assisted personnel screening algorithms. The report explained that screening algorithms may use factors that are correlated with protected categories to automate a discriminatory hiring practice. As an example, it explained that a requirement for a minimum exposure to computer systems may inherently discriminate against women because on average, women begin using computers at a later age than men. Many employers utilize third party questionnaire and interview services in their applicant screening processes. In the example given with a minimum required experience with computers, many employers may not even have the opportunity to review an application that does not meet a minimum criteria—the employer may not even be aware that it is engaging in what the White House may soon consider discriminatory hiring practices.

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