Are You Concerned About Global Privacy? You Should Be!

Are You Concerned About Global Privacy? You Should Be!You likely believe that your organization’s data – operating, financial, human resources – is a key resource and you have policies and processes in place to mitigate any risk.

Whether or not your organization operates in just one province, or just within Canada, you should understand that the principles and guidelines of data management are not grounded in geographic jurisdiction.  Data management, and the security and privacy of that data, is a global issue.

Goodbye Safe Harbor

In October 2015, the “Schrems” decision by the European Court of Justice ruled that the “Safe Harbor” structure between the US and the European Union (EU) is invalid.1

The US has no federal privacy law (a source of serious concern to many organizations), and Safe Harbor was the means by which US-based firms could previously get blanket approval regarding the movement of personal data, including HR data, between the US and all EU member countries.

This decision is a direct result of the considerable suspicion of the global community regarding the extent of US government surveillance of personal information (via The Patriot Act, and others).  The US‘s National Security Agency (NSA) has taken the position that non-US citizens have no rights regarding an expectation of privacy.

Further, US law requires US-based organizations to comply with surveillance orders, so the concept of data privacy becomes almost moot.2

US Swarm Regulation

The lack of countrywide legislation in the US has spawned an industry-based approach to the regulation of data privacy.

Companies face multiple state and federal regulators on an industry-to-industry basis, producing an ever growing swarm of regulation that is simultaneously inconsistent, conflicting, and full of gaps.  Major US-based technology companies (Apple, Microsoft, and Google, to name three) have been outspoken about this problem since diverse legislation is both frustrating and costly.3

Hello EU/US Privacy Shield

Schrems fired a shot across the bows of the US intelligence and business communities by opening the door for each European country to apply its own regulations for organizations moving personal data to the US, and possibly forcing organizations to host personal data exclusively within Europe. It also created the foundation for a pan-European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that takes full effect in 2018.

On February 4, 2016, the European Commission and the United States announced a new framework agreement for transatlantic data flows: the EU-US Privacy Shield.  It is intended to protect the fundamental right of privacy of European citizens while at the same time providing legal certainty for the thousands of US-based businesses that serve them.

As always, the devil will be in the details and the evolution of the full draft complete with regulations will be of considerable interest through the remainder of 2016.

Oh Canada

The good news is that (so far) Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) has been considered adequate to protect personal privacy, and an agreement similar to Safe Harbor has been unnecessary.

But the Canadian Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the lesser known of Canada’s two spy agencies which focuses on electronic surveillance, may give rise to concern as well.

The Canadian Anti-terrorism Act gave the CSE expanded use of electronic surveillance, authorizing it to intercept foreign communications that begin or end domestically, as long as one party is outside Canada. CSE shares information with intelligence agencies in the so-called “Five Eyes” group of countries — namely the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.  The European Union’s success in challenging the NSA could easily mean that attention shifts to the CSE.

Canadian Model Leads the Way

The EU/US Privacy Shield announcement includes an Ombudsman-style redress mechanism similar to Canadian Federal and Provincial Privacy Commissioners.

This may be one of the more interesting aspects of the agreement as it seems to mean that the US could FINALLY, actually create some form of “Privacy Czar” (a.k.a. office of data protection or privacy.)

Global Data Management Rules

History has shown us that concepts and laws in one jurisdiction rapidly spread. Recall the 2002 advent of the US’s Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act regarding securities and financial controls.  That law almost immediately spawned corresponding Canadian legislation.

Data management legislation will likely closely follow SOX in significantly increasing the legal responsibilities of executive management with regard to the privacy and security of personal data. Organization policies and procedures will follow directly. This strikes a major blow against organizations that try to consolidate data into an effective and efficient single database (look out Big Data!!) and creates enormous uncertainty surrounding global data management.

If your organization’s operations transcend national borders the challenge will be to construct a data privacy and security strategy, as well as processes that maximize data utility and minimize risk of loss or misuse.

The growth of technology and the impact on data management has spread like an epidemic across the world and the concept of national boundaries has become largely meaningless.  Expecting that a national border will change the nature or flow of data is as realistic and probable as expecting it to stop the spread of the flu. In that regard, the EU-US Privacy Shield is a positive step in the global data management challenge since it helps provide some structure to the swarm reality of the US’s current approach.

Data sharing can’t be taken for granted any more. Companies and their cloud providers are more responsible than ever for data sovereignty, and this responsibility is only going to increase when the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is adopted, leaving organizations with a two-year time limit to comply. The penalties for wrongdoing are well publicized and severe for companies that fail to adapt to the new data privacy landscape.4

Canada-US Data Management Challenges

Data management challenges are not just true with respect to privacy and security.  Canadian users of services such as Netflix or Apple’s iTunes will have experienced the frustration of Canadian licensing laws limiting access to content.  These laws are as much based on nationality as on geography. For example, a Canadian in the US cannot buy US content if the devices being used for access are linked to Canadian IP addresses or cell-phone carriers.  Meanwhile the data flows illegally across the border through a variety of innovative technical end-arounds.

Looking Forward

Individual consent seems to be increasing in importance although that process is the most administratively burdensome, in part because it can be revocable, and because adequate tools to manage that process are in very short supply.

That places pressure on a variety of management activities – such as business analytics – which will clearly be effected by the trend to recognize individuals’ notice rights, including third-party protection (naming names), retention periods, the right to be forgotten, purpose and transfers.

Trying to analyze and act on collective data will be very complex.  For example, profiling based on sensitive data can only be done with explicit consent.

International agreements to deal with these realities are expected.


About the Author

Ian TurnbullIan Turnbull is a Director of The Canadian Privacy Institute, formerly a subsidiary of Laird & Greer Management Group Corp. A former Chair of the Canadian Council of Human Resource Associations (CCHRA) and of the International Association of Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM) his latest book (Carswell 2014) is HR Manager’s Guide to Managing Information Systems.  Ian has a BA and MBA from Western University (The University of Western Ontario) and obtained his professional human resource designation, the CHRP, in 1992.



1 The author gratefully acknowledges the early reporting and ideas of Jon Neiditz of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton of Atlanta GA, US, and Kevin Duggan, President & CEO of Camouflage Software.

2 Roberts, D. & Ackerman, S. (2013, June 7). Anger swells after NSA phone records court order revelations. Retrieved February 7, 2016, from

3 Neiditz, J. (2015, November 14). No Harm, Big Foul: Why Yesterday’s LabMD Decision is Stunning and Important. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from

4 Help Net Security. (2014, March 17). EU sets huge fines for firms who violate users’ privacy Retrieved, February 22, 2016, from

The Rise of Conglomerate Unions: Less Than Meets the Eye?

Trade union mergers in Europe and North America have been going strong since the Second World. It is almost always a question of survival: mergers or absorptions are thought to help unions maintain or grow membership to sustain their financial base and increase bargaining power.

While in the past mergers occurred among unions in the same industry or occupation, more recently unions from different parts of the economy have merged to create super-unions, such as ver.di in Germany and UNITE in the UK.

Across the pond in the U.S. starting in the 1980s, five unions led the way in multi-jurisdictional mergers: the Service Employees’ Union, the Union Food and Commercial Workers, the Communications Workers of America, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the United Steelworkers of America.

You could understand their logic: the trade union movement saw the decline of master agreements, which led to decentralized bargaining and greater administrative costs. There was a sudden decline in organizing and subsequent loss of union revenue. “Mergers came to be seen as a potentially cost-effective alternative to organizing as a means of sustaining membership levels,” writes Kim Moody (Centre for Research in Employment Studies, U Hertfordshire) in the British Journal of Industrial Relations. “With smaller unions looking for mergers to survive, jurisdiction became less important for both those willing to be absorbed and those seeking more members.”

Moody took a detailed look at multi-jurisdictional unionism in the U.S. In particular, he assessed the three major arguments in its favour: that it improves the union’s finances, that it increases organizing capacity, and that it boosts union bargaining power.

Moody’s conclusion: Conglomerate unions “do not achieve notable improvements in these three areas, nor do they perform better than other large unions that have engaged in fewer mergers over time. All that can be said is that mergers may prevent even worse performance outcomes, hardly what the advocates of conglomerate mergers claim.”

Are multi-jurisdictional unions in better financial shape? One measure is the degree to which the membership itself finances the union through dues and fees. All the unions studied by Moody rely heavily on income from investments and the sales of assets to cover total costs. As well, bigger unions mean ballooning staff and administrative costs.

Do union mergers lead to increased organizing? “While greater resources could increase organizing capacity,” Moody writes, “a good deal of these resources appear to go on staff and administrative costs as the number of sectors and agreements proliferate.”

Do these unions have greater bargaining power? The reality is that strikes are more infrequent, real weekly wages have declined, and benefits won in earlier times have been rolled back. “As measured by the outcomes of wage agreements in the major jurisdictions of these unions,” writes Moody, “there is no evidence of improved or above average performance. In fact, many of these agreements fall short of the average increases for unionized workers generally and in their major economic sectors.”


“The Direction of Union Mergers in the United States: The Rise of Conglomerate Unionism,” by Kim Moody; British Journal of Industrial Relations (47:4 December 2009 0007-1080 pp. 676-700)

The Celtic Tiger Roars at Work

Queen’s IRC Facilitator Lucinda Bray is a management development consultant based in Dublin, Ireland. In the following piece, she discusses the chaos in work and organizational life being wrought by dramatic, prosperity-related change in her adopted country.

Ireland has been dubbed Europe’s ‘miracle economy’ with good reason. In the past 10 years, the GNP has nearly doubled, with annual growth rates reaching seven percent and higher. Unemployment has dropped from 15 percent to four percent. In the dark days of the early 1980s, the inflation rate was running at 20 percent, and interest rates were astronomical. Today, inflation is below three percent and interest rates remain at an all-time low. And from being a country of emigrants, Ireland has seen its population increase by 12 percent since 1995.

Overnight, Ireland has been transformed from a stagnant, agricultural economy to a booming high-tech powerhouse. The only comparable examples of such rapid change are the ‘Tiger’ economies of Asia. There is no Western equivalent of the tumultuous changes that have taken place here, and thus no culturally similar example to follow, no road map, no guidelines, no historical references. As a result, we were taken by surprise when we started to feel the Tiger’s effects – particularly on our work lives.

In fact, Ireland’s Celtic Tiger is a perfect illustration of the “limits to growth” systems archetype, so elegantly explained by Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline. According to this maxim, any change process set up to create growth also creates inadvertent secondary effects which eventually slow down the success. That is precisely what has happened here.

The growth cycle started with the upswing in the IT sector, creating thousands of new jobs Irish emigrants returned to fill, thus further fueling the consumer economy, all of which coincided with a period of record low interest rates.

But limiting effects became obvious very quickly. After decades of neglect, the Irish infrastructure was still in the 1940s. Roads, rail connections, public transportation, and telecommunication systems were all far behind the rest of Europe. There was very little new housing, and nothing in the way of apartments or condominiums. Education and health were in slightly better shape, but there was no organized system of daycare, since few women worked outside the home.

The result has been chaotic and frequently frustrating for those of us who live and work here. The sudden demand for housing has pushed real estate prices up at the rate of 15 percent per year (Dublin is now one of Europe’s most expensive cities). In order to find affordable housing, people must move farther and farther out of Dublin and commute to their jobs. Suddenly the roads and railways are jammed, and country towns such as Navan and Arklow are becoming sprawling bedroom communities.

Social norms have also been affected: house prices are so high that it now takes two generous salaries to support a mortgage. This means that women must think twice before starting a family, even assuming they can find affordable daycare.

And overnight, Ireland has become a multicultural society as immigrants arrive to take up the slack in the service sector. (This morning I heard a radio announcement in Polish).

The effect of all of this on organizational culture has been profound. Contrary to popular belief, Ireland has always had a strong work ethic, but the workplace atmosphere was laid back and very sociable. Lunch breaks were an hour and half, and everybody stopped work promptly at 5:30. Overnight, Ireland has joined the global economy, with its 24/7 imperative and instant communication technology blurring the boundaries between work and private time. Occupational stress has increased at all levels: a recent survey carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons for the Irish Management Institute found that senior managers have a lower quality of life than terminally ill patients. (Irish Times, March 2, 2006)

Occupational stress is further exacerbated by increased commuting time. Because of poor public transport, most people rely on their cars to get to work. For those working in Dublin this can mean leaving home at 6 am to beat the rush, and spending at least two hours in congested traffic every day. Added to this is the additional burden for parents, when daycare costs on average 500 euros ($680) per week, paid for with after-tax euros.

Not surprisingly, “work/life balance” is a hot topic, and organizations are being encouraged to create flexible working policies. Attitudes, however, die hard. A recent study by Dr. Margaret Fine-Davis of Trinity College Dublin found that “there are more negative perceptions towards people who participate in family-friendly programmes. Both men and women who work part-time or job-share are seen as less serious about their careers.” Despite this, other surveys have found that a significant percentage of Irish employees would prefer a lower salary if it meant a shorter work week.

Meanwhile, the government is building new roads and railways as fast as it can. The Dublin skyline is silhouetted with construction cranes, as entire sections of derelict industrial land are turned into high-rise housing. Primary schools are expanding to take in the children of new immigrants, who are learning English for the first time. Child care is moving up the political agenda: in the last budget, the Minister opted to give women 1,000 euros ($1,370) per child under six (which avoided discriminating against full-time mothers, but failed to solve the affordable day care problem). To paraphrase the Irish Rail slogan, “A long way to go, but we’re getting there!”

What will Ireland look like 10 years from now? By then, we hope that the Celtic Tiger and its consequences will have come into better balance, especially in the work world. Nobody would ever want to go back to the grim conditions of the late 1980s, but many are starting to query the price of prosperity and to look for ways of bringing back some of the social, easy-going quality of life for which Ireland is (was?) famous.

You Think You Have Language Issues at Work?

Queen’s IRC Facilitator Lucinda Bray is a management development consultant based in Dublin, Ireland. In the following piece, she muses on the brilliant cultural chaos of the European Commission workforce.

The Head of the Department is Italian, who also speaks fluent French and passable English. Her deputy is from Finland, and has excellent English and useable Russian. They have just hired a new project manager from Lithuania, whose second language is Russian and who is currently learning English. The rest of the department is a mixture of European nationalities and languages: Greek, English, Dutch, Portuguese, French, Austrian, and Czech.

Welcome to the European Commission.

The European Commission is the public service of the European Union which, since May 2004, now includes 25 countries and operates in 20 official languages. Within the Commission itself, there are three working languages – French, English, and German, which means that everybody has to be able to speak at least one of these. To add to the complication, most of the staffers come from previous careers in their member states and bring different organisational cultures with them.

The Italian Head of Department wonders if her Finnish deputy is a bit slow because he says very little and shows no reaction to her comments. The Finn admires his boss (of course he won’t tell her!) but finds her a little emotionally overwhelming. They are both wondering how the Lithuanian project manager will turn out – she’s only 30, so won’t have been molded by the Communist work ethic, but still… And the Lithuanian is starting to get frustrated by all the bureaucracy and red tape.

I have been leading management development seminars within the Commission for the past 10 years, and am fascinated by the place. At first glance, it looks chaotic. By any normal organisational standard, it shouldn’t work. The whole thing should have collapsed years ago. Traditional bitter enemies working side by side? Twenty official languages? No majority language or working culture? Crazy!

In fact it works very well, by capitalising on those enormous cultural differences. Canadians are used to multinational workforces, but there is always a dominant organisation culture to which the various nationalities are expected to adapt. This does not exist in the Commission. Although the organisation structure is modelled on the French civil service (very hierarchical and vertical), the day-to-day working culture varies from department to department, depending on the nationality of the senior manager. And because of the Commission’s mobility policy, managers must change positions every four years, so the working style in any department shifts constantly.

This multicultural vegetable soup appears to be one of the Commission’s major attractions for new recruits, who look forward to the challenge of working with such a wide cross-section of people. Surprisingly, the Commission provides almost no diversity training apart from an initial induction programme. Yet the atmosphere in the offices is one of respect, tolerance, and good-humoured willingness to accept others’ differences. Racism is almost unheard of.

So… the Italian department head learns that the Finn only speaks when he has something constructive to say, and that he can sum up entire discussions in a single sentence. The Finn learns not to be distracted by his boss’s exuberant body language. The Lithuanian starts to streamline the department’s procedures. And the work gets done.

The Great Divide: in Europe, North American management concepts often strike a sour note

Queen’s IRC Facilitator Lucinda Bray is a management development consultant based in Dublin, Ireland. In the following article, she talks about the gulf between European and North American ideas about leadership — and the hidden perils this presents for an HR consultant training executives in the Old World.

Although there have been many books published on how to manage a multicultural workforce, not much is available on how to teach management and leadership across cultures. As a Canadian HR consultant working in Europe, I have long felt uncomfortable with much of the management development literature from North America because it just didn’t fit. A recent book by Jeremy Rifkin provides some insight into the cultural values that underpin North American management and leadership models, and why these may not travel well.

In The European Dream, Rifkin compares the assumptions behind the American Dream with those he sees emerging as the European Dream. “The American Dream,” writes Rifkin, “is the idea that anyone, regardless of the circumstances to which they’re born, can make of their lives as they choose, by dint of diligence, determination, and hard work.” “Freedom” in a North American context means autonomy, self-reliance, and personal independence. In contrast, Rifkin identifies the characteristics of the European Dream: a focus on interdependence rather than autonomy, quality of life rather than workaholism, and sustainable development rather than perpetual economic growth.

These differences present hidden challenges for the management development consultant. For starters, the cornerstone of the American Dream is the notion of individual self-determination; that anyone can become President (or Prime Minister). Much of current North American thinking about management and leadership (e.g. empowerment, personal goal-setting, servant leadership) rests on this fundamental belief in personal autonomy. Yet European history has taught some very different lessons about personal freedom, and the ability of the individual to create his or her own future, and this leads to deep skepticism about North American “flavours of the month.”

Let’s start with the notion of empowerment — the idea that organizations should push decision-making down to the lowest level, and give staff the responsibility to manage themselves. In his book The Empowered Manager, Peter Block describes empowerment as “a way to treat all members of the organization as entrepreneurs so that employees feel that their units are their own businesses and that they, and they alone, are in the process of creating an organization of their own choosing.” While this idea fits fairly well with Scandinavian and Northern European cultures, it is completely foreign to the more hierarchical and formal working cultures of Central and Southern Europe.

And what about leadership? Even the word itself is loaded. After a leadership workshop I led in Brussels, two Spanish participants came up to me and said, “We understand what you mean by ‘leadership,’ but you need to know that the word ‘leader’ is associated with ‘dictator’ in Spain.” And as for the concept of the ‘servant leader,’ which rests on the (North American) assumption of an egalitarian society, this appears dangerously naïve within Europe.

I could go on. ‘Collaboration’ does not refer to a conflict-resolution style. ‘Performance management’ has fascist overtones to many European ears. And the prospect of giving individual feedback to subordinate staff can be almost humiliating to those coming from more formal, hierarchical working cultures.

While the Canadian culture shares many aspects of the American Dream (including the pioneer belief in an egalitarian society based on individual effort), it is closer to the European Dream in the value it places on sustainable development and a multicultural society. Perhaps that puts us in an ideal position to develop the new leadership models that would combine both the American and European dreams.

Recommended Reading:

The European Dream, by Jeremy Rifkin

Cultural Intelligence: People Skills for Global Business, by Kerr Inkson and David Thomas

When Cultures Collide, by Richard Lewis

Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Cultural Diversity in Business, by Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars

Immigrant Earnings Differentials and Cohort Effects in Canada

The relationship between immigration flows and the labour market became very topical in both the United States and Canada in the mid-1980s. Major articles in such forums as The New York Times, Science, and the Journal of Economic Literature, the 1986 enactment of the Immigration Reform and Control Act in the United States, and revision of the Canadian immigration legislation signaled an active debate in both countries on how to adjust immigration policy to the situation of the 1980’s.

This paper reviews Canadian immigration policy and experience between World War II and the 1970’s, and examines changing immigrant characteristics for this period. The 1973 Job Mobility Survey is used in the analysis to examine what has happened to immigrant earnings differentials in Canada leading up to the 1970’s.

Organized Labour in Canada and the United States: Similarities and Differences

This paper was presented at the 36th Annual Conference of the Association of Labor Relations Agencies, held in Albany, New York, July 26-31, 1987.

Labour movements in Canada and the United States have much in common and close historical ties. They are bound together by a common continental heritage, interdependent product and labour markets, and a similar labour relations framework in the two countries. International unions, with predominant membership and head offices in the United States, are an integral part of the Canadian labour movement. Unions in the two countries share common goals and beliefs, have similar functions and organizational structures, and have been fighting in recent years an uphill battle for legitimacy in face of a hostile and challenging economic, social, political, and technological environment.

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