March 17, 2010


Filed under: meatspace — SiKing @ 1:46 pm

I am going to be moving to a new job. They handle other people’s money, and so they asked to do a security check on me – so far no surprise.

In a day I get a phone call from some third-party (no need to slander anyone) that they were asked to do the security check. This is important, so pay attention: I am considered the first-party here, my new employer is considered a second-party, anyone else who we directly ask to do something on our behalf is considered third-party. After the lady got my SSN and DOB, she told me that she will also mail me some consent forms (yes, that’s plural) that I must sign and fax “to the number at the bottom”, and that she will also send me a link to a website where I must provide additional information – essentially the full rubber gloves treatment.

In an hour the forms showed up (two .doc and two .docx files) in my mailbox, along with full mail history of some “Team Coach, Client Services” from a fourth party. Not even trying to sanitize anything, just FW of the whole thing.  I started pouring over the forms.

The first attachment – background screening and fingerprinting instructions – ask me to go to an “office of L-1 Enrollment Services”. I tried to find this online, and it seems that these offices are only in country other than where I currently live. The bottom of the form has no fax number.

The second attachment – criminal check process – appeared like extra instructions to go with the next form, as there was nothing for me to fill out. And again, no fax number.

The third attachment – criminal consent form “updated Dec 14” – the very first instruction says:

An applicant must provide government-issued identification prior to undergoing a name-based criminal record check (when appearing in person before the Agent.) “Agent” being a representative of the Hiring Company. Applicant must sign the consent form.

Again, I pointed out as gently as I could, that it seems to me that this must be completed once I show up at my new job. And again, no fax number.

The last one – consent form “new” – was the only form with a fax number on the bottom. However it had entries in the legal text such as “< Insert Company Name >”. I pointed out that it seems to be a template, which must first be filed out by them.

She apologized for the confusion, and said that I only need to fill out my part on the third form, and fax it to the number on the fourth, and not worry about the others. I checked the name of the company at the top of the third form – it’s some company (I think I am up to fifth party now?) that operates out of Ontario, Canada. The fax number is area code in New York. The forms allows someone, presumably at the end of that fax number, to pull my criminal records and show them to anyone. 😮 Not wanting to risk my new job I hit send on the fax machine, and (to my great relief) there was no answer on the other end.

Next came the promised link to a different fourth party. The website looked like it was designed by my grandma, and had (and obvious copy-paste from a Word document, along with improperly encoded characters) several pages worth of instructions. The instructions basically told me that their website is extremely user unfriendly and laid out some of the obstacles that I am about to encounter (like US only addresses) and how to work around them (try your best). The very last instruction was:

WHEN YOU’RE READY TO BEGIN CLICK the “Continue” button, below

However, the page does not have a “Continue” button anywhere. 😦

I eventually managed to hack through that, and reported the achievement back to my third-party contact. She casually replied that they will also have to check my references, using a completely different fourth party (I lost track of how many that is now) website. As soon as I arrived at the website, I was greeted by a “congratulations, you have been shortlisted for a job with the third-party”. Since these guys can’t even get their facts straight, I decided to browse around their site a bit more. One of the “Features & Benefits” of this site was:

Each employee must accept the terms and conditions in order to proceed. This protects the raters and the employer from any potential legal action.

If I am going to be inconveniencing my friends, I wanted to find out just how much I am going to be inconveniencing them. I am not current on my legalese, but some gems from their “IMPORTANT TERMS AND CONDITIONS” follow.

Read this carefully, this changes your legal rights.

You agree to everything here, whether you have an account with us or not. Several times they mentioned that they are allowed to change any or all parts of this agreement, and simply by posting it on their website you agree to that too.

You are not permitted to lie to us. If you do, we will terminate your account. In fact, we are allowed to terminate your account on a whim, and we don’t even have to tell you about the termination or the reason. However, we get to keep all the dirt we dig up on you. We will use any means, whether you agree with them or not, to dig up dirt on you. We can “rebroadcast” the dirt to anyone we feel like. There is no way to have your dirt removed from our system.

Everything you find here should be taken with a grain of salt. We are not responsible for the accuracy of any content. In fact, we are not even sure if our Service (they capitalize that word all the time) serves any useful purpose whatsoever. I’m not making this up; they actually said that in their agreement!

In several places they mentioned that they can modify or completely shut down the Service on a whim, and you are SOL. I interpret that as: out the back door we sell confirmed targeted e-mail addresses to spammers.

My favourite part was: we are not responsible for errors caused by our own incompetence. We blew all our cash on designing the website front end, pretty marketing, and lawyers. If you are at least a little tech savvy, you will notice that we could not even spring for a certificate, so that we could get your information over a secure connection. Again, not our fault.

Speaking of lawyers, we’re actually not sure how much of this is legally enforceable in a court of law. We drafted this up in California, we don’t much care for laws in the rest of the United States, let alone for the rest of the world. You will have to take us to court – in California – at your expense to find out what parts are actually enforceable. If things go against us, we are liable only for the amount you paid us – most of our services are free.

Software from this Website (the “Software”) is further subject to United States export controls. No Software may be downloaded from the Website or otherwise exported or re-exported (i) into (or to a national or resident of) Cuba, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Iran, Syria, or any other Country to which the U.S. has embargoed goods; or (ii) to anyone on the U.S. Treasury Department’s list of Specially Designated Nationals or the U.S. Commerce Department’s Table of Deny Orders. By downloading or using the Software, you represent and warrant that you are not located in, under the control of, or a national or resident of any such country or on any such list. Ha, too late!

big brother is watching

Long story short … not really. Is this what it has come down to? On one hand everyone has become so extremely paranoid, that you need to run multiple checks on the people running multiple checks on you. And on the other hand we take the word of any pimple-faced bugger-eater that is dumb enough to register a corporation name that ends in .com as THE LAW. People with absolutely no notion (or financial motivation) of technical security are entrusted with the task of collecting and processing our personal data from any source whether reliable or not, and in turn responding to security checks and essentially determining our future?

George Orwell and Groucho Marx had a child, and he is in charge!


1 Comment »

  1. Love this:

    Comment by siking — December 9, 2010 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

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