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Key Lesson for HR from Apple/Facebook Standoff on Data Privacy

By | Anna A. Tavis, Ph.D | Academic Director, Clinical Associate Professor, Human Capital Management, NYU, SPS

In the long run,  HR may come out at an advantage for “lagging behind” marketing in embracing the latest tech tools and “experimenting” with people’s data. There are cautionary lessons to be learned before making decisions on how to manage people’s data in the context of the workplace. Just as HR is coming into its own with embracing analytics, AI and tech in people management, a long overdue regulatory correction is being called for at the highest government levels.  The hard lessons of the earlier decade must be front and center for HR as People Anlytics comes into its own.  . 

Tim Cook has recently emerged as a tech leader to issue a clear challenge to his rival CEOs of the  “Data-Industrial complex.” The CEO of Apple does not name his antagonists but clearly implies who they are[1].  The two tech giants, Apple and Facebook’s market and customer philosophies have been on the collision course for quite some time and seem to have finally now come to a head[2]. Tim Cook’s statement at the EU data protection conference in Brussels early in 2021 delineated the difference in no uncertain terms[3]

Apple’s is a lifestyle technology brand and as such is investing in giving users more control over their privacy. Facebook is emerging as Apple’s foe on the data privacy issue.  FB is a data business built on controlling users’ data to be selling more effectively to them through precision targeted ads.  

There are key ethical lessons from this rivalry that organizations must learn as they set up their own People Analytics Functions.  There is no question where the ethical choices should lead us.  It is also clear that the dangers of slipping into the abusive relationship with people data need to be countered. Here are a few direct quotes from Tim Cook that are worth highlighting as HR Data principles: 

·      “If a business is built on misleading users on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform.” 

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