I would like to thank Icepick, whom I ran across in comment at Respectful Insolence, for allowing me to post this comment on the front page. Icepick is a human resources guy, who blogs at The Kitchen Drawer, even more sporadically than myself.
He describes himself thus, in response to my accusation of libertarianism;
I appreciate the kind words. However, I would like to correct one perception - I'm actually a (small-government) conservative and not a libertarian. While I generally like the idea of less government, I'm not as adverse to the idea of government as libertarians are, especially at the local level. I tend to think of government as a necessary evil, but the "necessary" part is just as important as the "evil" part, and I think libertarians badly underestimate the importance of government.
I would just respond that I actually agree with the sentiment, with the adjustment that few would call me very conservative. . .
HR departments have access (directly and indirectly) to lots of personal information, and we have a responsibility to protect that info, both from the public at large and even (for the large companies) from individual supervisors and such.
Great care has to be taken so that the HR departments don't even get some of the employee info. For example, HR departments should not have access to individual employee medical records. Most of the large companies these days are self-insured on the medical side, and so they do have an interest in managing employee health. To that end, third party providers generally manage the healthcare delivery system, and provide the companies carefully scrubbed data about employee health - records shouldn't be connected to individual employees.
The funny thing is this: I personally believe privacy is a dead concept in any event. (Note that in practice I excercise great care to protect the confidentiality of any records I deal with. It is my job afterall.) Technology has become so advanced that the idea that information can be kept private seems ludicrous to me. If someone REALLY wants to find out the facts on somebody else, they can do so if they're willing to spend the time and money to do so. As technology progresses it will become cheaper and easier to peal back the layers of privacy. Satellites can increasingly look through walls and ceilings, and if they can the tech they use can certainly do so at closer range.
I do believe we're rapidly approaching the day when we will all effectively live in glass houses. I'm not happy about this development, but I believe that's where we're headed nonetheless.