Daily Dashboard

Pro Bono Privacy Initiative Pilot Gets Underway

October 5, 2011


By Jennifer L. Saunders, CIPP

Amidst growing needs across disciplines and organizations for expertise in the protection of personal information, several privacy professionals, attorneys and other experts have begun working together on the Pro Bono Privacy Initiative, which aims to help nonprofits ensure they are using personal information responsibly while also providing privacy professionals with the opportunity to give back to their communities by sharing their expertise.

Those efforts have now reached the pilot program stage, with privacy pros working hand-in-hand with nonprofits to share best privacy practices.  Pilot volunteers include Baker & McKenzie, HoganLovells, Hunton & Williams, Deloitte, Intuit, Verizon and IBM.

As IBM VP Security Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer Harriet Pearson, CIPP, explains, most nonprofit organizations do not have that level of in-house privacy expertise, and with 1.4 million nonprofits in the U.S. alone, “it is a matter of public interest” to ensure they are able to properly handle and protect personal information.

“There’s a real need for people with our expertise to address these issues,” Pearson notes, adding the initiative can provide that opportunity for privacy professionals “to advise nonprofits as to the responsible and pragmatic practices they should consider and follow to protect individual privacy and data security.”

The aim of the initiative is for companies, law firms and consultants--with the assistance of the IAPP--to provide pro bono privacy and data protection services to nonprofits.

As detailed in the concept design for the new initiative, “The number of privacy and data protection professionals has grown considerably in the past decade. Most of these individuals devote their energies to helping their employers or clients in the for-profit and governmental sectors to navigate the increasingly complex web of privacy-related requirements and public expectations in an informed and disciplined way. And many of them continue building their expertise and professional stature by belonging to the leading professional society for this quickly evolving discipline, the International Association of Privacy Professionals. As this is a relatively young profession, there has not yet emerged the tradition of service in the public interest that exists in other professions; e.g., medicine and law.”

The initiative’s launch committee began meeting in July and the pilot phase of the Pro Bono Privacy Initiative was announced during the Privacy Dinner at the IAPP Privacy Academy in Dallas, TX, in September.

“Without the IAPP at the center of our profession, this initiative could not move forward,” Pearson, who conceived of and to date has spearheaded the initiative, explains.

For the pilot, volunteers have been matched with nonprofits working in fields as diverse as domestic violence, adoption assistance and international relations.

"It is truly an honor for Baker & McKenzie to participate in the IAPP Pro Bono Initiative,” notes Baker & McKenzie Partner Brian Hengesbaugh, who is a member of the firm’s Global Steering Committee. “We expect that this initiative will become a driving force across the industry to facilitate the pro bono application of commercial privacy skills to worthy nonprofit organizations. In our particular project, we are privileged to assist the Adoption Institute to enhance its privacy program and thereby participate in a small but important way as the Adoption Institute achieves its core mission of advancing public policy in favor of adoptive mothers and families.”

In 2012, the Pro Bono Privacy Initiative Steering Committee will assess the results from those early efforts and recommend the next phase for the initiative. A website has also been created to provide updates as the process moves forward.   

As Pearson notes, “The true sign of a mature profession is when people step back and give back.”