Interesting Use of LexisNexis

As I’m sure many of you are already aware, LexisNexis has received some interesting press lately. In the July 28, 2008 report issued by the U.S. Department of Justice, a LexisNexis search used by a DOJ employee is reprinted (on p. 21). This search was apparently used for vetting potential employees:

[First name of a candidate]! and pre/2 [last name of a candidate] w/7 bush or gore or republican! or democrat! or charg! or accus! or criticiz! or blam! or defend! or iran contra or clinton or spotted owl or florida recount or sex! or controvers! or racis! or fraud! or investigat! or bankrupt! or layoff! or downsiz! or PNTR or NAFTA or outsourc! or indict! or enron or kerry or iraq or wmd! or arrest! or intox! or fired or sex! or racis! or intox! or slur! or arrest! or fired or controvers! or abortion! or gay! or homosexual! or gun! or firearm!

For some “interesting” (not to say informed) commentary on the issue, check out the debate on Slashdot.


  1. Hi Melanie:

    Great catch! That type of employee screening has *got* to be illegal.

    The first I heard of it was in this news clip video posted by Travellin’ Librarian, Michael Sauers: LexisNexis, it’s kind of an industrial strength Google. Forward to 1:35 min to catch it, and stick around for the ad-lib by the newscaster. My laugh for the day!


  2. Melanie Bueckert

    I was also interested in the fact that LexisNexis provided the search data to the USDOJ. Aside from this unique situation, I’m not sure lawyers would be comfortable with their employers reviewing their database search histories. I guess partners and associates might be less concerned, since they are not technically “employed” by their firms, but I would be interested to know more about when electronic database companies release users’ search histories to their employers (or anyone other than the users themselves). I suppose it’s all part of the person’s work product, and therefore not “personal information” per se, but I think this may be another situation where worker expectations are not aligned with legal realities.

  3. Ya gotta be impressed with the search itself. Can someone fill me in on why “spotted owl” might have been included?

  4. Melanie–good point! And with the U.S. PATRIOT Act in effect, likely applicable to databases housed in the U.S., it is an even greater concern.

    Mark–according to good ol’ Wikipedia, spotted owls are endangered in the U.S. My guess is that she was looking for interest in environmentalism/conservationism/animal rights.

  5. The ‘spotted owl’ must be a left coast thing. You know… to filter out anyone with a social conscience. :)

  6. That’s my point, “spotted owl” just doesn’t fit, look at the search terms around it: “iran contra or clinton or spotted owl or florida recount or sex! or controvers! or racis! or fraud! or investigat! or bankrupt!” There are many environmental causes one could belong too, spotted owl would not cover the environmental front.

  7. Well, it fits with some of the terms toward the end of the search. Are you trying to be–gasp!–logical?