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8 warning signs for public records users: wise words from big thinkers

IBM recently discovered that bad data costs the U.S. $3 trillion per year, and we know that inaccurate information – not surprisingly – results in poor quality decisions. So how can you and other public records users determine if the data you receive from your public records provider is accurate, recent and reliable, so that it will lead to successful results?

Using quotes from computer scientists, best-selling authors, legendary actors, and technology we’ll explore eight warning signs that may indicate your search is turning up bad data.

There are misspellings in a person’s name, address, phone number, or other information, in the report that suggests the data is no longer fresh or accurate. 

The hallmarks of rotting data are the errors that infect information that’s past its prime. In other words, beware of formerly-accurate data that is no longer valid.

Redacted information is pervasive, and that missing information could potentially be valuable for decision-making or investigations.   

The availability and your access to massive amounts of data are not synonymous with data that provides you with actual understanding. Examine your data for missing or redacted information.

The public records are not presented in their original format. 

“Clean” data means that the format of the data has not been changed beyond recognition, ensuring you’ve not lost the original context.

The data has limited or no relevance to the request.

Your data may tell you a story, but it may be the wrong story. In fact, your data may be quite accurate, yet may not be relevant to the objective that predicated your search.

There is inconsistent information for the same person; suggesting that only some of the data your search has uncovered is accurate. 

As enticing as it might be to cling to partially accurate data, inconsistent information that is only slightly inaccurate can give a false sense of security to your investigation and decision-making.

Limited credible sourcing is shared for the information you’re given.

Part of “loving” your data is paying attention to its birth and gestation, guaranteeing that the original sourcing for your data is accurate.

Reports have unexplained results. For example, your searches for common names may result in a ‘false positive,’ which means the name is correct but it’s for the wrong person. 

Bad data begets bad decision-making, which leads to flawed results. Fight fire with fire and ensure that solid, accurate data support the decisions you make.

The data that’s provided to you isn’t information that should be shared.  

Some data is truly not meant to be shared. For example, receiving and using data such as HIPAA-violating medical records can open searchers up to liability and risk.

Finally, perhaps the best quote about the credibility of accurate data – and the goal of not accepting flawed data on faith – comes from acclaimed statistician and engineer W. Edwards Deming.

Trust your data

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