Privacy and the government

There seems to be a growing concern within Australian around privacy and technology. Yesterday the Australian IT had a couple of articles quoting Gartner research fellow Richard Hunter and Special Minister of State Eric Abetz both calling for greater oversight and review on storage and usage of personal data.

In the first article Richard Hunter quotes the ChoicePoint issues earlier in the year as an example of a growing list of privacy invasions taking place all over the globe. Richard claims “… privacy is about your ability to control how you are perceived by people who make decisions about you, based on information they hold” and that until our laws catch up with the technological advances we are going to have a very uncomfortable time.

The second article discusses calls by Eric Abetz for a review of our current privacy laws some of which date from 1988, is required to ensure coverage due to new technology allow interactions with government departments. Eric is calling for the review on the back of additional data matching programs currently being rolled out by the government.

Both of these articles, along with the others that have come before, have a profound impact on HR professionals and the associated technology providers. The EU has had data privacy legislation for many years now, with Australia just introducing our privacy legislation in the last couple.

Complete HRIS or ERP packages that allow very sophisticated data matching and mining abilities and these tools are being used to make generic decisions about people within an organisation. For example identification of employees who might be at risk of leaving and then creating retention strategies around the specific attributions of the employees fails into the category discussed by Richard of making decisions based on the information you hold on that person. Is this an invasion of privacy? Any data that is stored needs to be properly protected, an internal security breech is bad enough let alone an external one. This brings into question the security around the different ASP HRMS vendors in the marketplace today. Given that many of the largest technology providers have all been hit by hackers, are the vendors who store your employee data secure, did you even ask before you signed the contract? Or what about your backup tapes go missing, like what has recently happened to Citigroup, who is liable you the courier?

All of these examples have an impact on people’s privacy, however caution is needed not the “throw the baby out with the bath water” and overreact we just need to take the time too work through the different scenarios to ensure that our employees privacy is kept secure.