Office of the Privacy Commissioner issues new bulletin on virtual hiring

Interest in conducting online interviews and assessments increased during the pandemic

Office of the Privacy Commissioner issues new bulletin on virtual hiring

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) has released a new privacy act bulletin that advises public sector institutions on the proper use of virtual staffing platforms.

The OPC said that the pandemic and the acceleration of digital tools had increased interest within the federal public service in conducting virtual job interviews and candidate assessments. The recent bulletin highlights key privacy considerations when using third-party staffing platforms that provide human resource services.

 The OPC pointed out that one of the key privacy considerations in virtual staffing is the risks involved when outsourcing the collection and management of personal information. The OPC urged employers to examine third parties’ retention procedures to ensure that confidential information is not kept for longer than necessary. The OPC further said that institutions should also limit the personal information that third parties collect to reduce the risk of over-collection and breaches.

When reviewing video interviews, the OPC warned institutions to protect individuals’ privacy. The OPC cautioned hiring managers against watching video interviews in public spaces or allowing others outside their workplace to view videos. Employers should likewise ensure that access to video and other human resource documents is limited to a need-to-know basis.

The new bulletin emphasized the need for compliance with s. 4 of the Privacy Act, which provides rules to prevent collecting unnecessary personal information when interviewing candidates. Some rules include interviewing in a neutral space, hiding personal objects that may reveal sensitive information from the camera’s view, and limiting excessive personal information sharing when responding to a question.

The OPC said that institutions must consider how long the personal information should be retained. The OPC advised that while a pre-recorded video interview may be accessed and used multiple times, institutions should consider the privacy risks of retaining and using the videos over the long term. Institutions should also consider how long-term retention may create a compliance risk with paragraph 6(2) of the Privacy Act, as personal information within a recorded video may become outdated and inaccurate.

The OPC’s privacy act bulletins are intended to offer lessons learned, best practices and other important privacy news, trends and information related to privacy protection in the federal public sector. This new bulletin on virtual hiring is a follow-up to the OPC’s February 2020 bulletin on the privacy implications of video job interviews.

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