How to Maintain Employee Privacy in Video Interviews

By Lin Grensing-Pophal June 4, 2020

Conducting video interviews offers flexibility and convenience for both employers and employees and has become a necessity during the COVID-19 crisis.

While the interviews are convenient, there are some thorny issues that employers, their HR leaders and hiring managers need to be aware of, said Alissa Parr, director of talent solutions at PSI Services, a testing and assessment provider based in Glendale, Calif.

One important issue is how personally identifiable information (PII) will be stored and shared. "We typically think of PII as names, e-mail addresses and physical addresses, but it also extends to IP addresses and video footage, among others," Parr said. Data breaches have made candidates concerned about data privacy. "Companies need to be mindful that, as more PII is asked of candidates, they may be more hesitant to participate in that step."

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Video Interviews Create New Concerns 

Mark G. McCreary is partner and co-chair of Fox Rothschild's privacy and data security practice group in Philadelphia. Chances are, he said, most employers are not currently recording video interviews. If that's the case, "there are very limited reasons to start that practice now." If you do, he added, "you may have to get consent from the interviewee." McCreary said there are 11 states that require all parties to consent to a recording, and the law of where each person is physically located applies.

If you do record the interview, cautioned Mark Girouard, shareholder and chair, labor and employment, with Nilan Johnson Lewis in Minneapolis, you likely need to follow some data retention regulations. These recordings are part of the employment record and, like any other employment record, they need to be retained in accordance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures, which say you have to keep the recordings for at least a year. Other federal and state laws may also apply, Girouard said. "My practical advice is to talk to your video interview vendor and make sure they're going to be retained for the required record retention period."

Privacy and Security

Privacy and security concerns when using video services like Zoom have been widely reported since the pandemic began and should cause employers to exercise caution, McCreary said. Any video system is susceptible to hackers if not properly configured, he said. "A password should be used to ensure that only those invited can attend." He also cautioned against using the video service to share documents or recordings—"instead rely on encrypted e-mail or an encrypted file exchange service." 

Access to Technology

There's another important consideration: Candidates may not have equal access to technology, Girouard said. Some may have a desktop or laptop available for an interview, while others may need to use their mobile phones. Some may have access to high-speed Internet connections, and others may not. "I do worry that some of the quality and the integrity of the video is going to impact both the candidate experience and also the unconscious or subconscious bias of how you rate the candidates," he said. "If you have a candidate with a rough, jagged image, it's hard not to let that spill over into your assessment of the candidate."

Artificial Intelligence

Girouard, who specializes in labor and employment issues related to artificial intelligence (AI), noted that many video interview platforms use AI and there are laws emerging around the use of the technology for this practice. In Illinois, for instance, a new law went into effect on Jan. 1 to require employers to disclose to candidates if AI will be used in scoring video interviews and offer applicants the opportunity to opt out from this type of scoring. Other states and jurisdictions are considering similar laws, he said.

"People who are being judged by AI have a right to know that AI is being used and then also to know the characteristics that are being used," he said. So do employers and their HR professionals. Girouard recommended asking vendors if their products use AI "because that opens up a whole area of risks that you wouldn't otherwise have."

Importance of Internal Training and Communication

Hiring team members and candidates need clear instructions on how to do virtual interviews, Parr said. "The hiring team needs to know how to appropriately view and make decisions based on the submission; for example, not saving the audio or video locally to their computer, using a scoring rubric, avoiding common rater errors, and focusing on content, not the quality of the video or the environmental surroundings," she said. Candidates need to know who will see their response, what purpose it will be used for, where and how their submission will be stored, and for how long. 

The easiest way to tackle some of these privacy concerns is to train the hiring team on proper usage of virtual interviews and to give candidates a waiver with information about the process, Parr said. If you are working with a vendor, make sure they take data privacy seriously—inquire about their servers, data protection and erasure protocols, and ability to include waivers for candidates, she advised. 

Taking data privacy seriously and being transparent with candidates will help lessen their concerns and ensure the hiring process can go on safely during social distancing.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a freelance writer in Chippewa Falls, Wis. 



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