Privacy Laws and Human Resources


Since businesses are obliged to work with people, collection and usage of personal data is inevitable. The legal basis for such activities has become an obstacle for employers and Human Resources Management in particular. The problem becomes even more aggravated when it comes to the international level. There are numerous issues concerning utilization, modification and storage of information that businesses face today. However, even before the foregoing operations can be handled, one needs to acquire all necessary data, and that is where the stumbling stone occurs. On the example of particular legal systems, one can point out several specific questions in order to see the situation today and suggest possible scenario of the development of the relationship between the employer and legislation.

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What impact do international privacy laws have on Human Resource Management, specifically in regards to the interviewing and hiring process?

Human Resource Management has to follow some basic rules while interviewing the employee. They are applied to the collection as well as the procession of data and are regular in Germany, Korea, and Australia. The information must be obtained by lawful methods with the employees consent, used within the adequate purpose, be accurate, secured by the employer and destroyed after the purpose is achieved. Thus, the recipient of personal data can only act within the law, which protects the rights of the interviewee and regulates the usage of information. In this relationship between the laws, the employee and recipient, the latter becomes the least, yet the most responsible party, which determines the policy of Human Resources Management in the chosen countries.

What are the important features of the laws in the three countries you chose? Are there any features that surprised you?

Generally speaking, the most important feature is that each act is equitable, contains all relevant information, and refers to those affected. Each law has its structure and is easy to navigate, especially the Australian Privacy Act, though German Federal Data Protection Act and Korean Act on Promotion of Information and Communication Network Utilization and Information Protection are well laid-out, as well. Surprisingly, the Korean Law contained much information on the technological aspect of information distribution. Governmental interest in the development of modern communications is expressed in the Article 6, stating, The Government may incur the requisite costs, in whole or in part, of research institutes undertaking the research and development projects (Act, n.d.). Another thing is that the Korean Act is specific in terms of international information transfer, whereas German and Australian Acts are not exact or have limited regulations.

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What are the restrictive aspects of the laws You reviewed? How would these impact hiring and ongoing employment in that country?

The Korean Act limits the amount of the information that can be requested by the employer. Therefore, such aspects like religious views, political ideology and medical records cannot be gathered on the assumption that such information is sensitive and can infringe upon the privacy of a person. As for the Australian Privacy Act, it restricts the collection of information to its purpose; however, there are a number of possibilities for an organization to acquire the necessary disclosure, or investigate the background of an individual. The German Act restricts the processing of personal data such as criminal or administrative offences, health matters and political or religious views to two cases and such information cannot be used for other purposes without the persons consent. This leads to a problem that can occur when hiring and interviewing. Since most employers are willing to know as much as possible about their candidates, they are likely to find the way to attain the desired. The matter is how they are going to do that: by asking for an agreement, which they may not get, or by googling their candidates. The company, therefore, has to change its policy, stating that there will not be any expectation of privacy, leaving by it the right to search if needed. The employer can make sure that there is no promise that the search will take place only when there is a reasonable suspicion. This is helpful if there is, actually, no evidence but a mere distrust towards an individual. Another method of obtaining information is the usage of Disclosure and Authorization forms, when a person allows the investigation of his/her credit background information, reputation, characteristics or the way of life. Secrecy Laws and Open Government in Australia suggest 61 recommendations for reform, including explicit information on the subject of Disclosure, making Australia ahead of others in giving clarity in these issues.

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As technology develops, what changes in the law do you foresee becoming necessary?

Technology gives businesses potential to exchange information with the help of Internet and resource management information systems of the enterprise automatically, which offer flexibility, efficiency, and lower costs. The benefits include centralized control, opportunity to share data on the global scale and increase the speed and efficiency of work. When it comes to global data flows, there appear national restrictions, especially on the human resources data. This problem needs to be resolved as soon as possible in order to foster the development of unified systems for the human resources data management. However, country-by-country approval process in European Union creates an impediment to submitting such methods in Germany. Therefore, the change of this approach needs to take place on the legislative level. Another modification, which is vital, is the removal of restriction on the pre-employment screening. Businesses need to protect themselves from employers who can damage their reputation and cause harm to other businesses, employers, and customers. In Australia, such activity is limited and not effective. This makes companies invent different ways of finding out the personnels background. Governments should also provide a lawful basis for businesses to exchange the contact data: for example, name, position and address since it is an essential part of business practice. Such limited personal data cannot be considered private and must be allowed to share on the international level. One more thing that needs to be revised by the Korean government is the access of the employer to the sensitive data of the employee. Informing of the purpose, for which data is processed, may be not enough for the data subject, which can lead to prevention of collecting the vital information. Such changes have to find their implementation as soon as possible and be universal so that every country could apply them in whole or partially to their legislation systems.

Working with the private information has become one of the greatest issues of the Human Resources Management. When business is a priority, it is important to make sure that nothing is going to damage it. Moreover, the task of the employer is to maintain good relationships with employees and customers. The demand for the knowledge of a working individual becomes obvious, and the legislative aspect plays a vital role in the hiring process. Having reviewed the laws in Germany, Australia, and Korea, one can assume that their main objective is to protect the owner of personal data, and not the recipients interest. As technology advances, new agendas occur, and the role of governments is to keep in step with it.

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