Can Your Internet History Be Checked in a Background Check?

by Michael Wolfe; Updated September 26, 2017

Before hiring a potential employee, many employers choose to conduct background checks on them. These background checks can vary greatly in focus, scope and thoroughness. While some background checks will be relatively cursory, checking only the information provided by the applicant, others may use public records and interviews with the candidate's acquaintances to get a fuller picture of him. However, a background check cannot legally include a check of the person's internet history.

Background Checks

Employers will either conduct background checks themselves or they will contract an outside company to perform them. In either case, the checkers will generally confine their search to a perusal of public records; interviews with relatives, former employers and other acquaintances; and a check of records of the individual on the internet, such as on social networking sites and results found through search engines. These do not include the candidate's browsing history.

Internet History

A list of the sites that a person has previously visited on the internet, known as a browsing history or an internet history, is contained on the browser of the person's personal computer. This information is not publicly available, unless the person makes it publicly available. This information will not appear within the results of a search engine. Therefore, an employer will not find it in a background check.

Employer Rules

If an employer chooses to conduct a background check on a current employee -- for example, if the employer is considering giving the employee a promotion -- then the background check may include a review of the websites that the employee has visited while at work on the company's computer. In such an instance, the person's internet history at work would show up on the background check.


A background check on a person who does not work for a particular company could not legally include a check of their internet history, as this would require illegally accessing the job candidate's personal computer. However, this does not mean that an employer cannot ask the candidate if he has visited certain types of websites in the past. The employer could ask, but would have no means of verifying the candidate's answer.

About the Author

Michael Wolfe has been writing and editing since 2005, with a background including both business and creative writing. He has worked as a reporter for a community newspaper in New York City and a federal policy newsletter in Washington, D.C. Wolfe holds a B.A. in art history and is a resident of Brooklyn, N.Y.