IT pros reject US-style background checks

Australia's IT industry has rejected adopting moves in the US to run background checks on private sector IT employees.

The Australian Federal Government has rejected US administration's plans to develop legal guidelines that will subject tens of thousands of IT employees to background investigations for security purposes.

A spokeswoman from the Attorney General's Department told Computerworld there are no plans to follow suit but local recruitment agencies are already doing so, particularly in the banking sector.

Background checks in the US are focusing on IT employees working with critical infrastructure information systems such as banking, energy, transportation and telecommunications.

However, the Attorney General's spokeswoman said the US "makes it own judgements based on its own risk environment".

Bob Olivier, director of Olivier e-recruitment Advisors, Olivier Recruitment Group said the only "background checks" conducted in Australia now are reference checks from former employers, with some specialist clients requiring criminal background information.

Olivier said there is obviously considerable hostility to background checks from candidates -- good and bad -- who consider it an invasion of privacy.

"The Privacy Act has also restricted our ability to collect and retain information on candidates. We have had no requests from clients to go beyond the normal reference-taking steps. We have taken legal advice in the past and we are not able to openly ask if, for example a candidate has a criminal record," he said.

An IT professional from an Australian television broadcasting company told Computerworld when he is hiring he requests only essential details.

"If Australia suffered a similar level of terrorist activity as the US, then I think we would quickly follow the US example," he said.

"IT is clearly one profession that is a high risk for handling secret information due to access privileges to systems and databases and the knowledge of how to 'open' up systems. You have to just accept that level of security is part of the deal if you wish to work in such an organisation."

An IT manager from a publishing company said there is already a requirement in Australia for IT employees obtaining a long-term work visa to Australia to undergo Police checks.

-- Dan Verton contributed to this story.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

More about OlivierOlivier Recruitment GroupTransportationVisa

Show Comments