For Human Resources professionals in Ontario, our practices as members are regulated through the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA). As posted on the HRPA website, ‘the overarching objective of HRPA’s regulatory function is to protect the public by ensuring that human resources professionals in Ontario are competent and act in an ethical manner’. 
Certified members of the HRPA in Ontario must abide by the ‘Rules of Professional Conduct’ which clearly articulate the ethical requirement for the profession in Chapter 3 of this document.
In the wake of much-publicized employee and individual data breaches, such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it seems that the need for ethical regulation is more critical for the profession than ever. We live and work in a world that is virtual. Our work-world is based in digital technology, which allows access to data that is linked to each one of us personally. In this technological environment, according to a recent publication, there are no ethical boundaries that frame or guide how our individual data can be stored, used, and manipulated by others in the workplace.
While the Cambridge Analytica data breach and similar events have resulted in the introduction of increased privacy legislation in several countries, there remains an absence of ‘techno-ethics’ within the virtual workplace. Ethical conduct goes beyond simple compliance with laws and regulations. It speaks to a component of human behaviour that calls upon individual honesty, integrity, and personal accountability to care for our fellow human beings, and their personal data.
For the HR professional, our ethical responsibilities to the profession are in place. It is time to transfer these professional responsibilities into the virtual world to ensure that ethical conduct provides real protection for individuals and organizations alike.
- As an HR practitioner, outline an ethics policy which focuses on the protection of employee data.
- What types of employee data should be protected? When and how should employee data be shared?
- How do you want your personal demographic data to be stored?
- What is the HR practitioner’s role when employee data protections are breached?