This headline is none of your business

It was International Data Privacy Day yesterday. That’s doesn’t appear to have led to any restaurant or bar discounts or formed the basis of an awesome themed party, but it did produce a series of events and speeches to promote the issue.

The day is promoted by The Privacy Projects, an organization which researches and debates the issue of online privacy. Last year the date was officially recognized by both the US House of Representatives and the Senate. It also has some degree of recognition in Canada and 27 European Countries.

Microsoft marked the day by releasing a report into the way your online reputation affects your employment prospects. It showed a major disparity in the US: 7% of the public believe online data could affect their job search, while 70% of recruitment professionals say they have rejected candidates based on information they’ve found online.

The study also showed that just 16% of German recruiters and 14% of French recruiters had rejected candidates on this basis, though if it’s not clear if this is a cultural difference.

Back in the US, the study showed that 75% of companies now have a formal requirement for human resources staff to check online when considering a candidate, with another 4% doing so on their own initiative. The most common reasons for rejecting a candidate from the resulting data are concerns about a candidate’s lifestyle, inappropriate comments written by the candidate and unsuitable photographs or videos.

For its part, Facebook marked the day by publishing comments from seven data experts and politicians about their views on privacy. The most striking comment came from Ontario’s information commissioner Ann Cavoukian who said “Our right to control the collection, use and disclosure of information about ourselves is the right upon which our other freedoms rest.”

In the world of politics, the European Commission’s information chief Viviane Reding gave a speech noting “we cannot expect citizens to trust Europe if we are not serious in defending the right to privacy.” She detailed some of the Commission’s work on the issue, including persuading social network sites to set all profiles for users aged under 18 to be private and excluded from search engines, taking legal action over Phorm (a company which takes internet use data direct from an ISP to deliver ultra-targeted advertising to users), and investigating how the use of RFID chips could impact upon privacy.

[Picture courtesy of via Flickr]