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Over a hundred organizations are responsible for shaping the future of data privacy. In this new series we’ll profile some of the organizations that are helping to shape the massive privacy ecosystem through the eyes of the professionals that work there and learn more about their perspectives on privacy.  


What is your organization’s role in the privacy ecosystem?

DataGuidance is a hub of data privacy intelligence, sourced from the world’s most renowned experts in 170+ countries. Our role in the privacy ecosystem is to be the global centre for information on privacy, whether it’s giving access to relevant laws, local ‘best-practice’ or allowing people to compare requirements in multiple jurisdictions.


What key goals/issues is your organization focused on tackling?

The primary goal is giving first-class support to privacy teams, which we know can be hugely diverse. They need the best information possible, so it is a huge responsibility. We talk to the privacy community all the time, so that we can deliver information and innovative tools that help people solve the day-to-day issues they face.

We’ve been hearing a lot from our clients regarding the practical difficulties they’ve been facing with regards to employee monitoring. As a result, we did a lot work around this and developed a specific tool to help privacy pros understand the legal requirements they are faced with. It’s an issue that touches a nerve with everyone, as there are so many valid and complex needs to satisfy from each stakeholder. For me, it’s an issue that embodies privacy’s importance to businesses, societies and citizens, so it’s crucial we all get it right.

Aside from that, probably the biggest on the horizon is the GDPR, how organisations can compare EU and global requirements; we’ve got lots of very exciting plans for that. In addition, we continually see issues surrounding data transfers, breach notification, direct marketing, data retention and consent; the list goes on!


How have your organization’s goals/focus changed over the years to address evolving technologies or challenges?

We’re living through an incredible period, in terms of how technology is changing the world. One major consequence of technological change that I’ve noticed over the last few years is how businesses speak about customer experience. Like the best internet companies, we put a huge focus on making sure people get value every time they login to DataGuidance.

Technology is constantly driving up expectations; the fact that people have 24/7 access to apps with fantastic functionality mean that our own product needs to constantly evolve. In short, today’s privacy professionals expect to quickly find valuable information that helps them do their job better.


Looking ahead – what are the most important data privacy issues/concerns you think need to be addressed by the industry and/or government legislation? What is the biggest current threat (to consumers or businesses?)

Reconciling the power that data gives us with our existing moral or ethical standards is tremendously difficult, not least because we are presented with new, complex problems to solve all the time. From a business perspective, building trust is a major priority. And that trust is easier to lose than gain.

The biggest challenge, which we can see in every privacy debate, is how to keep redefining the ‘data relationships’ between citizens, governments, businesses and other actors. We have to learn how to respect our existing ethics and norms around data, whilst utilising it to improve our societies. From a human rights perspective, it’s crucial that this generation establishes the principle that protecting peoples’ data is compatible with the successful functioning of business and government.

We have seen, for example, the way that the Right to be Forgotten attempts to deal with online anonymity and the enormous challenges this presents. For me, the most important factor is the fact that we are actually having the debate. Without all sides doing a lot of listening and understanding, we can’t hope to find a resolution.


How do you think the Privacy Ecosystem will/needs to evolve over the next 3-5 years to be fit for purpose?

We will see exponential amounts of data being generated, so ‘Big Data’ will be the norm, as opposed to the phenomenon. Collectively, privacy professionals have a huge opportunity to grow this industry in the next 3-5 years. I am sure technology will only get more complex and our responsibility to facilitate data will increase, meaning that as opinions of privacy professionals will become more consulted in a strategic decisions.

As part of the ecosystem, we have an obligation to provide products and services that help people understand the different forces in play, so they can act appropriately. We also need to keep closing the gap between privacy and security; they can’t be seen as separate.


Tell us about your role at DataGuidance.

I became CEO of DataGuidance in March 2015. My job is to coordinate a team with a range of backgrounds and talents, so that we all achieve a common set of ambitious goals. Over the last couple of years DataGuidance has grown at a high rate and our total focus is entirely on tracking what the market needs very closely, to create the best privacy product available.

Everyone involved in data privacy right now has a huge opportunity and that makes leading a business in this space a very exciting prospect.


How did you start working in the privacy field and why do you enjoy it?

I came into privacy through my work with DataGuidance. It’s enormously satisfying to find a field of work that presents great opportunities for growth and at the same time, also tremendously interesting. Every day we are having interesting chats with people from all over the world. In the U.S., Brazil, China, Russia, and countries across Africa; wherever they are, privacy professionals want to discuss the issues they’re facing, which is thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating.

The tension between the commercial and legal worlds, in relation to how the internet has changed our lives, produces more interesting opportunities than any other industry I could think of. Working to resolve that tension is a wonderful place to spend a career.


What do you wish more [people, business, etc.] knew about privacy?

I’m accustomed to the fact that some people can treat our field with disinterest, so I guess changing this would be my wish; that more people cared enough about data privacy issues to make a positive input into the debates and discussions.

A lot of consumers seem to be more aware than before, which is great, but to get real debate from all sides we need to take people away from that negative ‘terms and conditions’ view of data privacy and tell them how vital and interesting it is.