“When we first started we collected personal items like social security numbers and credit card information. We stopped doing that to avoid important liabilities. If we were to be hacked, we wouldn’t want anyone to get that information,” explains Connor. “But some agencies are still requesting personally identifiable information that is not required to do our job. Is it something that someone is going to go out tomorrow and do identity theft with and cost you a lot of money? Possibly.”
What Connor believes is more concerning is crewmembers’ willingness to sign up with an agency with little or no research beforehand, not questioning to whom they are giving their details. “What surprises me is how many agencies crewmembers register with. ‘Tell me your social security number.’ ‘You’re going to get me a job? Sure, here you go.’ It’s very easy to get a crewmember to give you far more information than they should be, so I think it’s worthwhile saying to crew: what information do you need to tell them? Is it something that, if it fell into the wrong hands, would damage you in the future? We’re not like credit card companies where they underwrite and ensure the liability for the end user.
"It’s very easy to get a crewmember to give you far more information than they should be, so I think it’s worthwhile saying to crew: what information do you need to tell them? Is it something that, if it fell into the wrong hands, would damage you in the future?"
“The victim has as much to do with being mugged by choosing to walk down the dark alley, drunk with a pocket full of cash. In many situations it can be the victim’s responsibility. Crew should at least ask: hey, who are these people? There are a couple of crew websites where you hit the ‘about us’ button and there is no, ‘My name is X’ and the domain is registered to an anonymous host. Really, you’re going to put all your licensing information on there without knowing who they are? Your name and date of birth? These people are totally anonymous.”
One example Connor provides is of a crewmember who was tracked down by immigration simply by using such a website. “A crewmember [was] coming into the United States and immigration was able to find them on a free website with their resume, saying they were in Fort Lauderdale looking for work … and banned them from coming into the US for five years, [just] because they googled them and the first page that came up was a free crew ‘find your resume here’.”
Crew shouldn’t be concerned about giving their information away to well-established recruitment agencies, but they should be prepared to question exactly what information they are being asked for and why, and should most definitely be prepared to question where information is going. In addition, recruitment agencies must understand exactly what information they really need from their candidates, not asking for anything that could put a crewmember’s identity under threat and be responsible in the way that they handle that important information.