The long digital arm | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The long digital arm

Posted By on Tue, Oct 17, 2006 at 6:27 PM

It's just been called to my attention that there's a local angle in an interesting NY Times story today about how criminal records that are officially expunged sometimes aren't cleansed from private data accumulation companies, with sometimes unpleasant consequences.

A lawsuit has been brought in New York against Little Rock-based Acxiom, for example.

Mr. Guevares, now 33, was convicted of disorderly conduct more than a decade ago. New York considers that a violation like a traffic infraction rather than a crime and bars database companies from reporting such offenses to employers.

But Acxiom, a database company, reported the disorderly conduct charges to the Tyco Healthcare Group, which had offered Mr. Guevares a job in 2004. Tyco promptly withdrew the offer, one that would have doubled Mr. Guevares’s salary, to $46,000. It based its decision, his lawsuit says, on its mistaken understanding that he had committed a misdemeanor and had lied on his application about whether he had ever been “convicted of any crime which was not expunged or sealed by a court.”

Mr. Guevares, a gregarious man with a shaved head and big brown eyes, said that losing the job, which would have propelled his family into the middle class, devastated him. “I’ve never been arrested,” he said. “I’ve never been locked up. I’ve never done jail time.”

In court papers, both companies denied wrongdoing, and Tyco has sued Acxiom for breach of contract.

Catherine H. O’Neill, a lawyer with the Legal Action Center, which represents Mr. Guevares, said Acxiom deserved much of the blame.

“They should not have been vacuuming up this information in the first place,” Ms. O’Neill said.

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