Navigating the Nuances of Data Privacy in HR

Navigating the Nuances of Data Privacy in HR

In a world where businesses operate on a global scale and are increasingly digitally connected, human resources (HR) leaders face complex challenges related to data privacy and protection. A recent webinar organized by the HSP Group, featuring data privacy and GDPR experts Kathryn, Terese, and Michele, provided invaluable insights into these challenges, enabling HR professionals to better navigate the regulatory landscape.

The Global Impact of GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) isn’t exclusively a European issue. Many countries worldwide, including China and Australia, have implemented variations of it. This fact necessitates that organizations everywhere grasp GDPR implications and conduct regular assessments. During a recent webinar on the topic, a poll of our attendees revealed that 57% of organizations conducted a GDPR assessment within the last 18 months—a promising indication of growing data privacy awareness.

The U.S. vs. GDPR: Differing Approaches to Data Privacy

Historically, U.S data privacy laws have aimed at preventing or mitigating harm, contrasting the broader rights-based approach under GDPR, which grants individuals legal control over their personal information. Currently, 13 U.S states have passed comprehensive data privacy laws, leaning on GDPR as a guideline.

Terese Connolly, Partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP and an expert in the field, emphasized the magnitude of this issue, stating, “it’s going to be huge.” With a firm grasp on the complexity of evolving data privacy laws, Terese paints a picture of a landscape that is increasingly influenced by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Terese noted, “GDPR…effectively [means] everyone owns their own personal information, and there’s this presumption or they presumptively have the right to legal control over it.”

Internationally, GDPR is viewed as the benchmark of data protection standards, imposing stringent requirements that HR and businesses must comply with. Balancing compliance and maintaining an agile, entrepreneurial company can be challenging.

The Pivotal Role of HR Professionals in Data Privacy

With the rise of digital nomads and HRIS systems, HR professionals must understand how data is collected, processed, and transferred, particularly when these processes involve moving data outside the EU. A GDPR assessment can help understand this data flow, identify potential issues, and preventive measures, but some practical places to start enhancing your company’s data protection include:

  • Implementing Robust Security Measures: Strong protections start with the safety of information. HR leaders should make data private and control who can enter. Checking security often is important, along with using safe methods of communication. Companies also need to make plans for when there are problems, so quick action can be taken to reduce the damage from possible attacks on data.
  • Employee Training and Awareness: Many times, when there is a data breach, it happens due to human error. If companies train their employees often and tell them how important it is to keep information safe, what dangers are common, and the best ways to deal with private details, they can really improve how well they protect their data.
  • Data Minimization and Retention Policies: Sticking to the rule of using as little data as possible, and having strong protocols in place for keeping data for a limited time can make privacy efforts even more effective. This means taking only the essential details needed for one specific reason and keeping them no longer than required.


Keeping pace with evolving data privacy laws is a critical task for HR leaders, who are responsible for maintaining compliance and safeguarding employee data and maintaining trust with stakeholders. After all, potential fines and penalties for non-compliance not only affect the company’s legal standing, but also their reputation and credibility. HR leaders must continuously educate themselves on data privacy laws and regulations to effectively navigate the nuances of this increasingly complex issue in the modern workplace.

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