Thursday, June 16 Computers Freedom and Privacy (CFP) hosted a panel called “The Privacy Profession — Corporate Apologists, or Agents of Positive Change?” that featured Chief Privacy Officers (CPO) from various agencies and companies. The panel included: Nuala O’Connor Kelly as moderator (Senior Counsel, Information Governance & Privacy, GE; FPF Advisory Board member), Doug Miller (Executive Director, Consumer Advocacy & Privacy, AOL; FPF Advisory Board member), Jonathan Cantor (Chief Privacy Officer, Department of Commerce), and John Kropf (Deputy Chief Privacy Officer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security). The discussion provided time for each of the panelists to share a bit about their career path, and then moved on to touch on various subjects including the major policy issues each CPO is facing in their current roles, questions for the CPOs to ask each other, and also provided opportunity for a few audience questions.
One of the interesting discussions that Nuala O’Connor Kelly elicited was about the “ethos” of the CPO role. More specifically, the CPOs considered whether they looked at their role as an internal versus external advocacy role. John Kropf aptly compared the role of a CPO to a line from a Johnny Cash song and said he “walk[ed] the line,” referring to the line between an internal or external oversight role. Overall, the panel agreed that their role is multidisciplinary, and inclusive of legal, technology, and policy considerations. As such, there was also emphasis later in the discussion about fostering relationships with other departments within organizations, including, and especially the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of an organization. Additionally, though each felt their position was similar in its role as an advocate for privacy, each highlighted the difference a corporate or agency environment or culture may have on their role as CPO. For instance, Jonathan Cantor compared his past experiences with privacy enforcement at the Social Security Office to those as CPO at the Department of Commerce.
In discussing the current and pressing policy issues, answers varied. Three common answers however, were: cyber security, cross-border data flows, and information sharing (whether it be with government or third party advertisers). The diversity of answers shared shed light on how truly multifaceted the policy implications of privacy concerns are. Accordingly, when John Kropf asked his fellow panelists about the future of privacy, the CPOs undoubtedly agreed that privacy and the role of CPOs was growing rapidly, and had a bright (and busy) future; Nuala chimed in, “only up.” Curious about how to motivate and encourage interest in the growing role of privacy, Doug Miller discussed how to encourage interest among employees and the public.
The panel provided a great opportunity for both audience members and panelists to discuss the roles and growth of the privacy office. The insights were based on a great depth of experience, and provided great perspective for all who attended.