As you might imagine from the latest headlines and privacy scandals of the past few weeks, one of the hottest practice areas on the rise is privacy law.
“What’s driving the boom in privacy law and the ranks of privacy professionals? Certainly major social and technological changes are behind it, but there’s also a more specific catalyst: the GDPR, the European Union’s sweeping regulation of data privacy, which takes effect on May 25. Among its many requirements, the GDPR mandates that every organization have a Data Protection Officer (DPO) — who is often a privacy lawyer.”
Lat’s article quotes some encouraging statistics from IAPP’s president and CEO J. Trevor Hughes. The number of privacy professionals has been rising at an astronomical rate. The IAPP in Europe alone has grown from 4,000 to 10,000 members over the last year, and the organization as a whole “boasts more than 38,000 members in 107 countries around the world, with 120 cities having local their own local IAPP chapters.” Hughes estimates there are positions for 75,000 more chief privacy officers.
Facing Higher Profile Privacy Scandals
It feels very much like we’re experiencing a sea change in public awareness regarding privacy. Though we’ve become somewhat inured to disclosures about point-of-sale hacking and database breaches, recent high-profile scandals involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have added an alarming dimension to the discussion. Not only was the data from over 50 million users harvested without their permission, it was done so by a firm which helped with Donald Trump’s election. It is perhaps the clearest use of data scooped and leveraged without consent.
In its wake, others like Apple CEO Tim Cook have been quick to differentiate themselves on the topic of user privacy. When asked what he would do in Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s position, Cook is quick to respond, “What would I do? I wouldn’t be in this situation.” He goes on to add that while Apple could “make a ton of money if we monetized our customer … We’ve elected not to do that.”
Facebook’s woes are likely just the first in what will become a more common revelation. Those looking to recover from or prevent these abuses will need privacy professionals on hand.
GDPR Washes Up on U.S. Shores
Demand for privacy professionals is not limited to those in Europe. U.S. companies are hardly exempt from GDPR, especially if they have an office in the E.U., offer services or goods to E.U. customers, or monitor the behavior of E.U. employees.
Entrepreneur.com has an excellent overview of the implications of GDPR for U.S. entrepreneurs. Embedded you’ll see there are plenty of opportunities for privacy professionals, especially surrounding issues of compliance and the rise of Privacy by Design. Much of the work is complex and the problems are challenging to solve. (Olga Mack sums it up nicely in one image from “Notes to my (Legal) Self.”)
Preparing Today for Tomorrow’s Privacy Jobs
So how do you position yourself to contribute to the future of privacy? The IAPP has a helpful post on their website which covers the essentials for securing your Privacy Law Specialist designation. According to the IAPP, the designation:
“signifies to the marketplace and the world at large that you’ve undertaken substantial time practicing U.S. state and federal law relating to safeguarding personal information; that you have knowledge of relevant privacy laws, regulations, and technology; and that you have a commitment to staying ahead of new developments.”
There are many excellent personal reasons for pursuing privacy law. First and foremost, it’s a practice area where you can have an impact. It’s also an opportunity to take social responsibility for your privacy. Add to this the probability you’ll never be bored. Privacy issues are often on the leading edge of precedent setting law are inherently involved in evolving and exciting industries.
There’s a real need for privacy professionals to step up and help create a world we all want to live in. Consider your place in shaping our privacy-conscious future.