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Who is Looking After Your Corporate Learners’ Data Privacy?

Who is Looking After Your Corporate Learner’s Data Privacy?

Did you read the end-user terms and conditions of say the new music app you just downloaded? Probably not. Let’s face it, who has the time?  However, Finn Myrstad, a member of the Norwegian Consumer Council, has. He read the full terms and conditions associated with many popular apps and with all the legalese it took him a day and a half  to get through them. No one has that sort of free time, and since they are so ubiquitous, generally most of us tick the box to accept terms without understanding what they mean or the implications regarding the uses of our data.

Original image source: finnmyrstad

The fact is that most popular apps and websites count on us not reading the end-user agreement. They know that if we did read the contract, it’s unlikely we’d sign and relinquish so readily our rights.  Our internet-dependent society lulls us into a false sense of security because of how friendly the user interface (UI) appears, how benign our interactions appear on the surface.  We don’t anticipate or give any consideration to all the potential misuses of our data.  Where could it be sold, what third-parties can access it and how these abuses can limit our liberties? Perhaps unconsciously, but we surrender more in those few seconds than we would consciously consider doing in a lifetime.

Why failing to read the terms and conditions is a problem.

For starters, on a personal level if someone has access to your browser history, they can use it to determine if you are eligible for a home mortgage, and depending on the answer, exploit this information by sharing it with mortgage brokers and banks.  Data from a health and fitness app might influence your ability to secure health insurance, or at the very least raise your premium.

Now put this into a professional setting. Jim is a successful sales professional with aspirations to manage a sales team for his employer, a tech company. To develop his skills and prepare for such a role, Jim completes several sales leadership courses on his company’s learning portal.  This learning portal also has professional networking features that are well utilized by Jim and his colleagues. Soon Jim begins to receive notifications and emails about sales leadership roles. While this is perhaps a good thing for Jim, for his employer the problem is that these positions are at other companies. By consuming learning on a networking platform that feeds recruiters with insights about its members, Jim is now visible to recruiters and at risk of being poached. Suddenly Jim has the opportunity he wants without having to look for it. While this is beneficial to Jim, for his employer it’s terrible news. In today’s current job market, it is harder than ever to attract and hire top talent with U.S. unemployment at 3.7%, a historic low, and a rate some would consider full employment. The majority of CHROs say that the competition for critical talent will increase over the next 12 months

While employees are entitled to switch employers, they are also entitled to privacy. When Jim is taking courses offered by his company, he should expect to have some authority over this data.  By prioritizing employee or learner privacy, companies both protect and safeguard their employees and build company loyalty.

Skillsoft believes a learner’s history is private.  We think:

  • Learners are entitled to know that all data around their learning – from which courses they took, completed, assessments they failed and passed – is protected.
  • All of a learner’s historical data, such as test fail rates, should never be shared with recruiters.
  • Learners must not be targets for recruiting companies or agencies based on their company-mandated learning history.
  • Learners’ data must not be available to or part of a social platform’s algorithms to determine a learner’s suitability for a job role.
  • Learners’ data should not adversely impact their ability to find future employment.

Ensuring a Safe Place to Learn is one of our three company virtues. As part of this belief, we released this short video about the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and how companies can work to protect the privacy of their data and that of their customers. To learn more about Skillsoft’s commitment to ensuring a safer, more inclusive workplace for all, please take a look here.


Kieran King is the SVP, GTM Marketing at Skillsoft.



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