3. A worrying privacy expert shortage
The tech world is consumed with a battle over how companies should use and sell sensitive information about their users, stoked by Cambridge Analytica, facial recognition bans and California's monumental new privacy law.
What's happening: That's fueled a demand for experts — but there aren't nearly enough people with the right cocktail of expertise in law, technology and liberal arts to do the work, writes Axios managing editor for business Jennifer A. Kingson.
Why it matters: Privacy is a once-and-future battleground. Without more qualified professionals, everyone’s sensitive information could fall vulnerable to corporate ignorance, mismanagement and whim.
My thought bubble: These experts are critical checks on Big Tech's instinct to collect and use as much data as they can. But we won't break out of the scandal-and-apology cycle until rank-and-file engineers and product managers are forced to consider user privacy as they build rather than after something breaks.
Jennifer reports: 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.
- "The chief privacy officer has gone from someone who was viewed as an annoyance, and now they’re viewed as an integral part of the c-suite," says Alastair Mactaggart, the California businessman who was the driving force behind the state's new privacy law.
- "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."
Interest in taking the gold-standard test for tech privacy, which is run by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), has risen “supersonically,” according to Douglas Forman, who oversees the exams.
- Last year was “our biggest year for certification ever," Forman tells Axios.
Even so, a lot of Fortune 500 companies “don’t have strong teams around data privacy,” says Anneka Gupta, president and head of products and platforms at LiveRamp, a data management company.
- 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.
Between the lines: More law schools are introducing privacy as a course of study — and the American Bar Association recently recognized it as a dedicated specialty — but the privacy profession is very much an evolving discipline.
- About 50% of data privacy professionals are women, in contrast to the male-dominated tech world.