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Privacy considerations for virtual hiring: A look at the OPC’s advice to employers

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March 13, 2023
By Talent Canada

People attending a Zoom meeting. Photo: Ridofranz/Getty Images

Editor’s note: COVID has lead to an increase in virtual hiring. With that spike, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) has released its bulletin on virtual hiring. While the information relates specifically to privacy protection in the federal public sector, it does provide a blueprint for best practices for all employers. But employers need to ensure they still comply with any privacy rules applicable to their organization. 

Privacy considerations when using virtual staffing platforms

Consider risks when outsourcing the collection and management of personal information

This includes examining third parties’ retention procedures to ensure that personal information is not kept for longer than necessary. See the Bulletin entitled: Consider privacy implications when outsourcing functions to a third party for more information.

Institutions should also limit the amount of personal information that third parties collect to reduce the risk of over-collection and breaches. Specifically, institutions should only collect supplemental documents when they need them to assess the applicant and should think carefully whether such documents need to be shared with a third party.

Provide training on managing personal information in a virtual hiring context

The institution’s ATIP team should instruct human resources officers, hiring managers and selection board members on how to protect individuals’ privacy when reviewing video interviews. For example, it would not be appropriate for a hiring manager to watch video interviews in public spaces or allow others outside their workplace to view videos. Institutions should also ensure that access to videos and other HR documents is limited to those with a need to know.


Ensure compliance with section 4 of the Privacy Act

Institutions can prevent the collection of unnecessary personal information when interviewing by instructing candidates to:

  • conduct the interview in a neutral space, or employ background filters/blurring
  • hide personal objects that may reveal sensitive personal information from view of the camera
  • limit providing excessive personal information about others when responding to a question
    • this is especially important in a video interview setting, as everything the candidate says is recorded, and therefore collected by the institution.

Consider how long the personal information should be retained

In contrast to an in-person or live video interview, a pre-recorded video interview may be accessed and used multiple times. Institutions should consider the privacy risks (for example, a breach) of retaining and using the videos over the long term. They 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.

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