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Is Your Company Using Employee Data Ethically?

Like Jeff Goldblum’s character observed in Jurassic Park, sometimes we get so swept up in whether we can do something that we forget to ask if we should do it. This is especially true regarding the huge new possibilities for exploiting employee data that businesses have. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Kon Leong reviews the ethical challenges that come attached with employee data.

Balancing Data and Privacy

Right now, businesses are using employee data for the following purposes:

  • To figure out who knows whom and who knows what
  • Determining which employees are likely to quit
  • Providing “instant replay” of escalated incidents

Using data to build a network of employee relationships helps a business understand which people should (for instance) be involved in helping client X. However, combing all corporate conversations might also highlight “personal” relationships between individuals that probably should not be taking place at work. What happens then? Likewise, using data to determine which employees are likely to quit could be useful, but it could also make people unnecessarily paranoid and lead to harmful false positives. And lastly, “instant replay” could be incredibly useful for learning exactly where things went wrong during an incident, but technology that powerful could also be used to monitor every moment of employees’ days. Privacy would cease to exist.

So what should you do to navigate this ethical quagmire? Leong recommends these actions:

  • Understand your company’s privacy comfort zone.
  • Ask for guidance from your information governance (IG) committee.
  • Share guidance with your team, and encourage best practices.
  • Invite feedback.

About IG committees, Leong adds this:

Many organizations have recognized the dangers of siloed data and have started to form a committee to coordinate an information governance strategy. This committee can offer guidance on available solutions for protecting employee privacy while staying in line with corporate objectives. Typical IG committee members include the general counsel, the chief risk officer, the chief compliance officer, the chief information officer, the chief information security officer, and the chief data officer.

Knowledge versus privacy will be an ongoing struggle. Trial and error may be what ultimately gets you to a comfortable place. For further tips, you can view the original article here: https://hbr.org/2017/03/is-your-company-using-employee-data-ethically

About John Friscia

John Friscia is the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and continues to provide graphic design support for AITS. He graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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