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Key takeaways:

  • Looking ahead, data governance and lifecycle management will be critical elements of focus for data privacy leaders.
  • Historically, much of privacy experts’ knowledge focused on regulation, but there’s increasing demand for tech expertise.
  • Skills like collaboration and conflict management are essential — particularly on the risk management side of operations — to appropriately articulate privacy risks to the enterprise.
  • There’s the growing notion of a Chief Trust Officer, and some privacy leaders see themselves as aligned with this title, particularly in the age of artificial intelligence.

In the age of digital transformations and big data, privacy is top-of-mind for both corporations and their consumers.

In fact, very few areas have undergone such rapid growth in terms of public awareness.

IAPP reflected on the last decade of change in their Visions of Privacy report, where industry leaders agreed that privacy is more relevant than ever.

In the report, Omer Tene, then IAPP Vice President and Chief Knowledge Officer, said 20 years ago, when you’d tell someone you worked in privacy, you’d often be met with a blank stare — it was confused with IT or cybersecurity.

But today, Omer said people’s “eyes light up.”

“Everyone has their favorite privacy story, concern, gripe, or fascination,” Omer said. “No doubt, privacy and data protection have arrived.”

All this growth begs the question, what will the chief privacy officers of the future look like? Where’s the next focus, and what skills do you need in order to get there?

Here’s what enterprise privacy leaders see approaching the horizon.

1. A Larger Focus on Governance

During a Data Privacy Board panel on industry evolutions, Xochitl Monteon, Vice President and Chief Privacy Officer at Intel, said looking ahead, data governance, and lifecycle management are critical elements of focus.

Enterprises can’t properly protect and report on personal data if they aren’t already effectively governing and managing their data assets.

“We’re looking at confidentiality, integrity, and availability. I think those components are really foundational as we begin to expand the broader privacy skill sets and have dialogues with not only our technologist but also our customers.”

Xochitl Monteon, Intel

Whether you’re directly responsible for governance or work with those teams, you need to know how it’s affecting your privacy program and initiatives.

In an off-the-record conversation, Data Privacy Board members shared how they’re navigating and delineating privacy and governance responsibilities. Regardless of department structure, everyone reported working closely with the governance staff, as the overlap can be significant depending on the project at hand.

Some notable areas for cooperation included privacy’s data mapping, which can bolster catalogs that data teams are building. One member has intentionally set up their data mapping so that it feeds into the governance system in a categorized fashion, which will hopefully save some time for the governance team.

2. Bolstering Your Technical Knowledge

During the panel, Marriott Vacations Worldwide Vice President and Head of Global Privacy Drew Bjerken echoed Xochitl’s thoughts and said that as the privacy space continues to expand, governance is a natural fit in terms of data use.

But Drew also said this brings the need to grow your technical chops as a privacy leader. While historically, much of privacy experts’ knowledge focused on regulation, there’s increasing demand for tech expertise.

“I’m not saying necessarily the chief privacy officer has to do that, but privacy in general,” Drew said.

This desire for more technical skills is evident in recent privacy recruiting trends.

A TRU Staffing Partners job report found that while privacy lawyers have been in demand for years, the industry is seeing a shift toward more technical roles like analysts and engineers, which are particularly important for ensuring regulatory compliance.

3. Tending to Your “Soft Skills”

While it’s clear some privacy folks may need to raise their technical acumen, you can’t neglect your softer business skills.

Drew said, “I always tell folks that in the privacy space, like any other space, we’re a business leader first.”

Skills like collaboration and conflict management are essential — particularly on the risk management side of operations — to appropriately articulate privacy risks to the enterprise.

Drew shared that it’s also important to recognize that privacy is very much a position focused on customer service.

“As CPOs, I think understanding and recognizing that you are in that customer service-focused arena, you’re going to have to adapt your skill sets to meet those requirements and demands.”

Drew Bjerken, Marriott Vacations Worldwide

Caroline Parks, Senior Director and Corporate Privacy Counsel at Expedia Group, was in agreement.

When looking for new privacy talent, she said she looks for attributes like curiosity and creativity, which are essential if you’re going to exist in a complex environment.

“You can no longer solve privacy challenges by following a simple two-step process,” Caroline said. “You need to be asking questions, and you need to want to constantly learn. I’m still learning every day in this career.”

4. Growing Interest in the Idea of a Chief Trust Officer

Now more than ever, trust is a prevailing corporate issue that can significantly impact performance.

In fact, PwC’s 2023 Trust Survey found that 91% of executives said they’re ability to earn and maintain trust improves the bottom line.

While there’s an agreement that stakeholder trust is vital, there’s less clarity about how to obtain it — and there’s even less agreement on where the responsibility should lie.

This leads to the growing idea of a chief trust officer, and many privacy leaders see themselves as aligned with this role.

After all, privacy plays a key part in the business effort to build trust and accountability. In PwC’s survey, compliance, especially as it relates to privacy, was the top focus for business executives over the next 12 months.

During the panel discussion, this notion resonated with Drew, who said, “I see myself as that advocate for the customer’s point of view to make sure that anything we’re doing in operating builds that trust and transparency with them.”

Xochitl also highlighted the trend of trust office sites bringing together cybersecurity, privacy, and compliance to ensure transparency and said, “I think that’s going to continue in the current environment.”

Caroline agreed the trust officer component is becoming more apparent in the privacy space, particularly with expanding artificial intelligence.

“I often call myself a critical friend. We’re all going in the same direction, but I might be the one that holds them up and says, ‘Is there a better way?’ For me, that consistent but principled approach helps to give the business that extra lens.”

Caroline Parks, Expedia Group

5. Navigating an Evolving Field

Regardless of where the industry is headed, one thing is certain — it will continue to be an exciting time to work in data privacy. Data has changed and will continue to change the world dramatically, and privacy work has never been more relevant to our lives.

Based on this, Caroline said there’s value in your ability to “future gaze” — privacy folks need to understand what’s coming down the pipeline, not just in privacy but the wider business landscape.

Still, navigating a rapidly growing field is undoubtedly challenging. That’s why your ability to benchmark with your industry peers is so valuable.

If you could benefit from unbiased peer insights from privacy leaders at companies like Intel, Expedia Group, and Marriott Vacations Worldwide, get in touch below.

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