A recent NY Times editorial got it wrong. The piece supports a “a federal judge in Brooklyn [who] took the extraordinary step of expunging the conviction of a woman he had sentenced to five years of probation more than a decade earlier for her involvement in an insurance fraud scheme that netted her $2,500.” The judge was concerned that she “was hired repeatedly for social-work or health-care jobs, and then fired after employers ran a background check”.

Here is the problem: Neither the judge nor the editorial connect the dots between insurance fraud and the opportunities for identity theft presented by persons employed in home health care services and certain kinds of social work—the kind of employment she is reported to be seeking. These concerns would not be present if the kinds of employment she was seeking did not involve access to others’ sensitive personal information. Rather than recognizing this nuance, a policy of permanent expungement undermines those entities that have a legitimate need for this information.