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Funky Monkeys II
(March 07, 2003) -
-  Given the harsh tone of yesterday's piece, you won't be surprised to hear that we got lots of hate mail. Not all of it, mind you, but some pretty aggressive stuff was in the mix. That's what you get for stirring the pot.

Notably, the head of the HR-XML consortium suggested that the alternative (guess he's in a position to know) might be no background checks. It's that sort of arrogance that we're attacking. Somehow, an unmonitored group of unindicted co-conspirators thinks that they have that much control over the industry. Shame on them.

We thought you'd enjoy one of the constructive dialogs that emerged from the day's mail.:

Sent: Thursday, March 06, 2003 7:48 AM 
Subject: xr-xml

Your diatribe today does you no credit. I respect how difficult it is to write every day and avoid some bad ones. That's why you should remember this one- one of the items that should not have seen the Send button.

The language and tone you selected diminishes your idea, which seems a bit of a reach anyway. The vendor list you linked is filled with heavy hitters, and one would think they have a reasonable handle on their potential liability. Monkeys and Clowns they are not.

Who, other than people in the background checking field, would have the expertise to write a spec to exchange data ?

Why not focus on the laws around the original creation and later use of the data, rather than the mere mechanics of its transmission ?

Do you have any constructive proposals to allow data interchange without total custom coding for every new node ?

Your next column ought to say you were up late or had one too many double lattes and you regret the tone, if not the premise, of today's ramble.

Martin Snyder 
Main Sequence Technologies 
440.946.5214 #5300

From: John Sumser <
Sent: Thu 3/6/2003 12:16:50 PM 
Subject: RE: xr-xml

Sorry, Martin. The idea that industry insiders can handle this question on their own without adult supervision is bogus. A self-serving design process holds the entire industry hostage to the changing realities of privacy concerns. The efforts of HR-XML are already becoming concerns for a range of civil libertarians because they made no effort to include privacy advocacy in the process. It is a behind closed doors activity in an age where transparency is becoming the norm.

I do expect some flack but think that the proposition is far from being a "bit of a reach". If I stirred a hornet's nest, it was intentional. I hate having to pick up the role but no one seems to be trying to hold our industry accountable in an age where privacy is a major concern.

For example, any spec on handling sensitive background information should have, as a minimum, the capacity to contain the approval, comments and management capabilities for the individual being screened. This is a relatively standard requirement yet the spec ignores it. The very management of personal identity information is the issue here. The work of the HR-XML group tramples over individual rights because there is no counterbalance in the structure.

From my perspective, a venture like HR-XML ought to stand for something more than the collective business interests of its members. Without a higher set of values, it's just a scheme to institutionalize the desires of its members and ought to be aggressively discredited.

With your permission, I'd like to print your note and my response as a column.


From: Martin Snyder [
Sent: Thursday, March 06, 2003 11:39 AM 
To: John Sumser 
Subject: RE: xr-xml

If you feel data interchange tools should be regulated by some authority, that's a reasonable idea and perhaps the FTC or some other agency or legislative body ("adult supervision" ) should take that up.

What can an industry standard group be expected to stand for BUT the collective business interests of its members? If the regulatory and market environment is sound, those business interests should align with the interests of the customers they serve- i.e. firms and the public. Our industry should be as accountable as any other and the FCRA and HIPAA laws certainly apply to HCM and exchanging data with XML offers no effect to reduce those responsibilities.

You should support the need for a workable XML standard- you often lament that our industry is backward, yet defined XML standards are well accepted in the manufacturing, finance, and logistics industries and are needed now for greater interoperability of Human Capital Systems.

If data is misused, don't blame system designers, blame individual organizations and bad actors. Like the NRA says, Computers don't violate privacy- Humans do.

From: "John Sumser" <> Reply-To: <
To: "Martin Snyder" <
Subject: RE: xr-xml 
Date: Thu, 6 Mar 2003 12:13:46 -0800

You'd expect that I'd try to have the last word.

It is in the business interests of the consortium to provide the equivalents of guns with safety mechanisms. The problem is that without a broader set of insights in the process, they have no way of knowing that. Right now, they are producing unsafe designs and have no effective controls on their work. By shrugging their shoulders at obvious liability issues, they are delivering inherently flawed output.


From: Martin Snyder [
Sent: Thursday, March 06, 2003 1:30 PM 
To: John Sumser 
Subject: RE: xr-xml

I accept that, and I'm looking forward to reading it ;-)

When we boil down the point to the essence, its something that can be acted upon.


Thanks to everyone who took the time to write over the past couple of days. Whether you loved us or hated us, we took it in and added it to the mix. What's clear is that privacy and other aspects of the job hunter's dilemma are moving closer to center stage.

We'd like to take the opportunity to publicly offer the HR-XML Consortium the opportunity to explain why the development of standards should not include the voice of those whose data is being standardized. We'll happily print their response as a column. It's time that HR stopped treating the personal property of employees and potential employees as if it was a disposable commodity. HR-XML is a spec that defines use and parameters of other people's property. Certainly they deserve a voice.

- John Sumser  

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