Background Checks and Worker Identity: Theoretical or Real?

In an age of tension between anonymity and identity, the need to screen workers and vouch for reputation is greater than ever. The explosion of background screening services and programs for employees in recent years is a testament to this growing demand. Stakeholders- the owners, managers, and even consumers of services- want to know that workers have been vetted as law abiding, dependable people.


While background checks are rightly seen as a stamp of approval from an organization or company, that approval needs to be tied to an identity in an authoritative and comprehensible way. Traditional, plastic badging has been the routine practice of organizations to identify vetted workers as a part of the family, but there are some drawbacks to hard badges.

Here are some key problems we’ve discovered with relying on plastic badges to authorize workers:


  • Workers may, intentionally or unintentionally, hold on to badges after their tenure at a job is over. They are also no longer being background checked in this scenario.
  • Workers may trade badges with each other, to cover each others' shifts. 
  • Plastic badges can be lost and picked up by bad actors, who may then edit their own image onto the card.
  • ID cards may be forged, from the ground up, if the template is obtained. 
  • Legal status may change over time, while hard badges remain static.


In any of the above scenarios, the conditions surrounding the badge or worker have changed (legal standing, tenure at the job, proper identification), but the badge itself has not. Managers and service users are still interacting with the badge holder on the trust that the worker has been properly background checked, but that trust is now outdated . This is what we are referring to when we say that the vetting process must be tied to identity in a comprehensible way. 


While traditional hard badges are static, digital ID’s are flexible and easily adjustable to changes on the ground. Digital badges can remotely deactivate at the end of a job, cannot be traded amongst people, and are too secure to be forged. When tied to a background screening service, digital ID’s can deactivate if the minimum threshold for criminal conviction is passed. 


In any of the above scenarios with digital badges, neither the employer nor the public ever has to have any doubts or illusions as to the veracity of the worker’s identity and background. 


If traditional badges say “this person is checked, screened, and authorized” in theory, digital badges bring the vetting process from the theoretical to the real. The fluidity of the digital brings virtual badges into a continuous, ongoing dialogue with events as they unfold. To stakeholders and consumers who are  desperately looking for trust and assurances in the criminal status of workers, digital ID’s are indispensable.