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Funky Monkeys
(March 06, 2003) -
-  What could be more frightening than a group of HR folks who think that they are technologists? Would you let your kids drive across a bridge that they built? Well, there is a hyperactive collection of monkeys who think of themselves as 'our' technology enablers. They are called the HR-XML (the sound you make when clearing your throat)  Consortium.

Fresh out of their hands is a masterpiece of 1984 style computer architecture regarding the standardization of Background Checking, Credit Report and Screening Data. Approved at the end of February, the new standard includes the following language:

Human resources data, by its very nature, is personal data. The laws of many jurisdictions as well as codes of fair information practice require organizations to handle personal data in a way that protects individuals from loss of privacy. The data exchange specifications developed by the HR-XML Consortium are designed to be useful across many jurisdictions and within a variety of business contexts. It is not feasible for the HR-XML Consortium to develop specific privacy guidance for every jurisdiction or business context in which the Consortium's specifications might be implemented. When implementing data exchanges using the HR-XML Consortium's data definitions (or, for that matter, using any other type of data exchange mechanism), organizations are advised to examine the privacy protections that may be required under applicable law and codes of fair information practice. For information on protecting personal data, general references include: European Union Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC); the Association Computing Machinery Code of Ethics (1992); Canadian Standards Association Model Code for the Protection of Personal Information (1995 PIPEDA); and U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Principles and FAQs (2000). 

Implementers of the HR-XML Consortium's Credit Report schema are advised to review applicable law in the jurisdictions in which they operate. For example, in United States, the Fair Credit Reporting Act may require third-party providers of background-check services to obtain the consent of search subjects and to advise them of results before adverse action is taken.

Of course the assembled masses of vendors and a few HR Departments (about 1% of the membership) can get away with this foolishness. The HR-XML Consortium is a non-accountable feeding frenzy of vendors cutting each other slap-on-the-back deals. The Background checking spec was written by, you guessed it, Background Checking vendors. No candidate input, no regulatory input and above all, no HR input. That way, when the liability issues rear their heads, they can say "Hey we only were in it for the technology." Then they get to bill for the customization associated with a spec that is supposed to remove the need for customization.

That kind of foolishness can be overlooked when it involves meaningless data. In this case, however, the privacy issues are extreme. Without guidance and under the cover of the darkness of ignorance, these clowns are assembling a data tool of Orwellian proportions and shrugging their shoulders about the implications.

If you work for a vendor on the list or have an account with them, inquire strongly about the exposure to privacy liability that they are creating. Have them tell you why they are building a system that puts you at risk.

- John Sumser  

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Materials written by John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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