“Isn’t SafetyPIN just one more way to discriminate against people?”

We get asked that question…a lot.

Following George Floyd’s death and the spotlight it put on criminal justice in the US, we hear it even more.

And we understand why.

Black, brown, and lower-income Americans are arrested and convicted at a disproportionate rate. Plus, they are more likely to end up getting arrested for something that’s not arrest-worthy like not wearing a seatbelt or changing lanes without signaling, or having a small amount of marijuana for their own use (even as it’s becoming legal in more and more states).

On the flip side, we know there are people who should be arrested and get away with their crimes. Even taking the failures of the legal system out of it, 40% of all crimes (and more than 70% of sex crimes) go unreported.

So our system has created a large group of people with records that probably shouldn’t have them — leaving them vulnerable, and another large group of people that probably should and don’t — leaving the rest of us vulnerable.

How (and why) SafetyPIN does criminal background checks differently

In the last decade or so, a new trend has emerged. Whether hiring a babysitter or dog walker, renting a room in your house, or calling a ride-share, we are interacting with strangers more and more, knowing less and less about them. At SafetyPIN, our mission is to make the gig and sharing economies work better for everyone by offering greater opportunity — and greater peace of mind.

So when someone does have a record, we don’t just consider it a red X and decline their application. After all, we know a lot of people who made one mistake…did something stupid…and are productive, valuable members of our society and our communities. So we dive in. We reach out to the person, gather information about the circumstances, and have our experts review everything they share, along with the information from the more than 10,000 data sources we access. Our experts then examine any patterns of behavior and the underlying psychology of the crime.

We combine that with their behavioral score (keep reading to learn more) to get a fuller picture of the individual’s character and trustworthiness.

Our final determination is based on this question every time: Knowing what we know, would we let this person in our home and around our children?

No record doesn’t necessarily = safe

Another unique feature of SafetyPIN: We don’t assume that having no criminal record means you’re automatically safe and trustworthy. Remember that stat from above? 40% of all crimes and 70% of sex crimes are never reported! That means there are a lot of potentially dangerous people walking around without a record. And considering how many of them could be working a side hustle or trying to rent that basement apartment you have listed, we wanted a way to screen them out.

That’s why we worked with experts in criminal behavior, criminal profiling, and forensic psychology to build our proprietary behavioral review. Unlike other apps, we don’t rely on ratings or reviews, or use AI to scrub social media. We know there are too many issues that can crop up that way. Our experts crafted a series of precisely worded questions, served randomly, and developed a detailed weighing and scoring methodology. Using the individual’s own answers, we’re able to assign a behavior score. And, if it’s over a certain number, they can never receive a SafetyPIN – even if their criminal record is pristine.

Safety first, privacy second

Of course, we recognize that our behavioral review could cause people to think we are diagnosing mental health conditions or jeopardizing their reputation. That’s why we never share anyone’s score or even that they got declined. We only share a positive result.

We know not everyone appreciates that but our goal is to create opportunity, not to interfere with it.

However, we do tell the individual why they were declined and they can choose to share that correspondence. We may have declined their application for a recent DUI, for example, and that may not matter in your circumstances.

We recommend you ask someone for a SafetyPIN and, if they don’t have one, ask them to apply. If they won’t or they tell you they were declined, ask them for specifics – including a copy of the correspondence. Listen to them – and then listen to your gut.

A foundation of fairness

Finally, to ensure that our algorithm doesn’t further exacerbate racism, we don’t ask applicants their race, don’t collect data on race, and a field for race doesn’t exist anywhere in our system. We know that potentially creates a data gap that could impact other learnings. Our commitment to fairness is so fundamental to our mission, we decided early on we would forego that information to ensure it never became a consideration in a future version of SafetyPIN.

No system can be perfect. There are many challenges in the criminal justice system, human behavior, and technology. At SafetyPIN, we are working every day to address and close those gaps as much as possible to make the Internet safer, and help create more opportunity for people trying to earn a living – or a few extra bucks.

Visit our site for more information on how SafetyPIN works and how we screen differently.


*Photo Credit: Bill Oxford via Unsplash

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Babysitting on the side? Earn DOUBLE when you make this one change to your profile.

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Four nights in jail that another background check would miss

Most background checks only screen the “National Criminal Database,” which excludes 22 states completely, and leaves out a LOT of counties across 12 other states. Better background checks will screen down to the county someone lives in, and, in some cases, the counties they’ve lived in for the past 7 years. But we know criminals don’t stop at the county line – so neither do we.