Want to know whether the job applicant in front of you has a criminal past? Finding out can often be just a mouse click away, thanks to a growing crop of searchable--and controversial--online databases run directly by states.

Vermont debuted such a service Dec. 15, and now about 20 states have some form of them, reports the Associated Press.

The web sites provide a valuable and time-saving service to schools and other employers by allowing them to look up criminal convictions without having to submit written requests and wait for the responses. And they're popular: Last month alone, Florida's site reportedly performed...

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