Mandatory Criminal Record Checks in Sweden: Scandals and Function Creep

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Christel Backman


Over the last decade, more and more Swedish employers have become obliged to check jobseekers’ criminal records before
making their hiring decisions. The use of criminal records for mandatory checks of job candidates and staff outside areas
involving national security represents an entirely novel use of the criminal record database, marking a significant breach with
previous regulations regarding the database and creating a new potential for its utilization for surveillance purposes. Parallel to
this development, the number of enforced subject access requests in the country has increased dramatically. In this article, I
examine this ongoing function creep of the Swedish criminal record database and its direction and limits, based on the moral
positions taken by the country’s government in connection with the new legislation enabling the creep. Newspaper articles
covering and commenting on two paedophile scandals that shook the country in the recent past are analysed to capture conflicting
values around the idea of a closer vetting of childcare workers, so as to better understand the moral positions adopted. The
ongoing function creep is studied in light of the ‘sociology of scandals’ to better understand what made it possible, and broken
into its constituent elements to see what it meant in practice, what the forces were that drove it further, and how far it has

Article Details

Author Biography

Christel Backman, University of Gothenburg

Department of Sociology

Doctoral Candidate