Privacy Advisor

Components of an Accountable Company Privacy Program and How To Implement It

September 17, 2013

By Todd Walls, CIPP/G, CIPM

Recently I had the pleasure of attending my first IAPP KnowledgeNet on June 26, hosted at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP law firm in Washington, DC, and featuring speakers Daniel W. Caprio Jr., senior strategic advisor at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, and David Hoffman, CIPP/US, who serves as the director of security policy and global privacy officer for the Intel Corporation. The event was very informative, and the atmosphere was very relaxed despite sitting in front of two giants in the field of privacy.

Caprio spoke first and discussed the concept of accountability from a policy perspective. Caprio told the audience that we need to “make responsible disciplined decisions concerning privacy ... Shift the responsibility to the company from the consumer to make complicated privacy notices intelligible to the average person ... Comply with the applicable laws and implement risk mitigation strategies that are relevant to the risks identified in their risk assessment.” We need to utilize the accountability framework and move away from collection to focus on acceptable use; shift to responsible “data stewardship” with appropriate and accountable use, and “Protect privacy and enable innovation.”

The Internet and Big Data provide a lot of big benefits. Accountability is an evolutionary process as many more interconnected devices are available and in use. Privacy should be considered from the start. In the federal government, this begins with Privacy Threshold Analysis (PTA) and Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) as required by the E-Government Act of 2002.

Utilize Privacy by Design

Privacy can’t be assured only by compliance with a privacy framework. The default should be privacy compliance. Privacy by Design should be part of the foundation. Privacy and security are two sides of the same coin.

Public trust is vital to the sustained growth of the Internet. The concept of notice, consent and ownership plays a vastly different role in today’s information world. Someone snaps a photo of you and posts it on Facebook or a blog. Who owns this data?

Accountability was mentioned in the Fair Information Practices (FIPs) in 1980 as issued by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It wasn’t defined until 2008, but accountability was in several pieces of legislation such as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

Hoffman started off his part of the presentation by giving the audience a quick quiz on privacy history, which included everything from a discussion of the FIPs to the OECD and several other giants in the world of privacy. Hoffman was at Intel Corporation when the idea of a serial number being associated with computer processors was developed. This new technology, according to him, led to the creation of a privacy program at Intel, and he was the attorney at Intel who was charged with forming this program.

People may not trust everyone who is collecting their data, but they need services, so they provide data and hope that it won’t be misused. This means that we must be accountable. Accountability, as defined by Hoffman, is how we demonstrate—and how others measure—if we are living up to our commitments to users, the advocacy community and regulators.

Hoffman mentioned the Centre for Information Policy Leadership (CIPL) and the tools that should be utilized by privacy professionals—including the CIPL’s “Self-Assessment of a Comprehensive Privacy Programme: A Tool for Practitioners” and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta’s “Getting Accountability Right With a Privacy Management Program.” He went on to discuss the five essential elements of an accountable privacy program, which has been the work of Marty Abrams and the CIPL:

  • Organizational commitment to accountability
  • Mechanisms to put privacy policies into effect
  • Having systems in place for internal review and external verification
  • Transparency
  • Having a means for remediation and external enforcement.

“Ideally, your organization should have a top-five accounting firm conduct your privacy audit,” he said.

Todd Walls, CIPP/G, CIPM, serves as the senior privacy analyst at the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service and has been with the agency almost three years. He may be reached at Todd.Walls@fns.usda.gov.