Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pre-employment polygraph screening

While my blog was down, I wrote on about an interesting story from Nova Scotia that made national news. For those who missed it on slaw, here it is:

Slaw: Pre-employment screening

A recent story from Nova Scotia has focused a lot of attention on pre-employment screening and the use of polygraphs. Hopefully, it will encourage a larger discussion on both sides of the issue.

According to media reports, anybody applying for a job that falls within the purview of the Halifax Police Service and Fire Service is required to pay for a polygraph examination that includes a range of questions, some of which have been considered to be objectionable. (See the full questionnaire here (pdf).)

Others have objected to the use of a polygraph, as many assert it is not a reliable indicator of truthiness truthfulness. (If you want a refresher on how Canadian courts are to treat polygraphs, check out R. v. BĂ©land, 1987 CanLII 27 (S.C.C.)).

The media coverage has been plentiful, from the local papers to CBC's The National (Quicktime). The former FOIPOP Review Officer has made his thoughts known (Ex-watchdog: Ditch polygraphs) as has his successor Dulcie McCallum (Nova Scotians deserve same privacy protection as others).

Any debate and discussion is a good thing. It should, hopefully, focus the mind on one of the principes of privacy best practices that appears in almost every public and private sector privacy law: only collect information that's reasonably necessary for the (reasonable) purposes. If it's not necessary or not reasonable, don't collect it. Other important principles to consider: who has access to the information, how is it used and how long is it kept around?

And now for something completely different somewhat relevant, yet inadmissible:

Here's CBC The National's report:

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