The global shortage of privacy experts

Axios” Jennifer Kingson writes: It’s more important than ever for companies to hire privacy experts to help them navigate the thicket of proliferating laws on how consumers” data can be used — but it’s hard to find people with the necessary expertise.

Why it matters: Privacy is a once-and-future battleground. While companies like IBM, AT&T, Microsoft and Pfizer have had chief privacy officers for years, others — like Facebook and Uber — have hired them more recently after learning the pitfalls of data problems the hard way. There’s a lot of demand.

  • «Companies around the globe are having trouble finding people,» Dominique Shelton Leipzig, a privacy specialist at the law firm Perkins Coie, tells Axios.
  • «I just got a note from somebody in Saudi Arabia who was looking for people in this area.»

The big picture: The tests considered the global gold standard to be certified for privacy jobs are written by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

  • The tests vary by geography. Some cover the requirements of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect last year, or the California Consumer Privacy Act, which kicks in Jan. 1.

Interest in taking the tests has risen “supersonically,” says Douglas Forman, who oversees the IAPP’s certification exams. He tells Axios that 2018 was “our biggest year for certification ever.”

  • On LinkedIn, the number of job postings with the title “chief privacy officer,” “privacy officer” or “data protection officer” increased 77% from 2016–2019, according to an analysis that LinkedIn conducted for Axios.
  • More than 20,000 people globally have passed the IAPP’s certification exams— but that’s not enough to meet the demand.

Meanwhile, the privacy movement is galvanizing. Alastair Mactaggart — the California businessman who was the driving force behind the state’s new privacy law — is redoubling his efforts, aiming to strengthen the law through a 2020 ballot initiative.

In enforcement actions, the Federal Trade Commission has been instructing companies to hire chief privacy officers. One example was Facebook, which named a CPO in July after its $5 billion settlement.

The bottom line: The privacy field is still in its early days, and laws and best practices are changing at warp speed.

  • “Every day is different,” says Forman of the IAPP.


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