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IAPP 2016 Global Privacy Summit Recap

The IAPP held its annual Global Privacy Summit in Washington DC between April 3rd and 6th.  Drawing more than 3,500 attendees, the IAPP said it was the largest summit they had ever put on, and to their knowledge the largest of its type in the world. eWhite House Watch had the opportunity to attend the conference as part of the press corps.  As it has in years past, the conference combined fascinating opportunities to hear about cutting edge issues in privacy law with great opportunities to connect with privacy professionals from around the globe.


The conference drew some of the best speakers and biggest names in the privacy community.  For example, one of the keynote speakers was Brad Smith, Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer and President.  Mr. Smith’s theme was that this is the best of times and the worst of times for privacy in America.  “Privacy is one of the defining issues of our time.”  With everything being connected, we can all benefit from the use of big data, advances in human centered technology, and vast networks of people and computers.  But, hacks like the one Sony experienced, and concerns regarding encryption’s role in the Paris attacks, are just a few examples of the challenges facing privacy professionals.  He emphasized that there is no single answer and that the private sector and governments need to work together to draw proper lines that protect people’s privacy while also providing for their safety.  In short, there is a lot of work to do, but Mr. Smith emphasized that “Privacy should be a cause worth embracing.”

eWhite House Watch was also fortunate to attend an interesting discussion with the FBI’s general counsel, James A. Baker.  Mr. Baker started by explaining:  “I consider myself to be a privacy lawyer to a significant degree because a huge amount of my job is to think about that.”  Privacy “is baked into [the FBI’s] mythology and how we think” with 27 privacy officers stationed throughout the Bureau.  He expressed great concerns regarding the “Going Dark” issue that FBI Director Comey has spoken extensively about.  He emphasized the importance of electronic surveillance as a key tool for the FBI to investigate crime and protect the public.  But, he said that with the rise of encryption electronic surveillance is becoming less and less effective.  Mr. Baker recognized the value of encryption (especially in dealing with countries run by authoritarian regimes) and acknowledged that the FBI does not have the answer to the Going Dark problem.  He then emphasized, “we are not trying to impose a solution because we don’t have one.  In terms of establishing the balance of how to achieve all of these issues it is a hard question.” He acknowledged that the FBI cannot be successful without the trust of the American People, or “at least [their] confidence that competent people in government are trying to do the right thing.”  The FBI thinks of itself “as the servants of the American people and will do what you want.”  A more encrypted world will make the FBI’s job harder, but that may be the price the public is willing to pay to protect its privacy.


Beyond the big name speakers, the conference also provided an enormous range of panels and workshops for attendees.  With sessions ranging from practical panels like “Building a Hurricane-Proof Data Transfer Compliance Program” and “Trends in Cybersecurity Supervisions and Examinations” to more fanciful discussions like “Sci-Fi Privacy: The Tech It Predicted and What’s Coming Next” the conference truly offered something for everyone.


One of the most interesting sessions eWhite House Watch attended was a short 15-minute talk given by Nico Sell, founder of the encrypted messaging app Wickr.  Ms. Sell’s talk acted as a counterbalance in many ways to Mr. Baker’s “Going Dark” concerns regarding encryption.  Ms. Sell spoke about the importance of encrypted communications and the battles underway to undermine privacy.  She likened personal data to hazardous waste: “if you’re holding it, you better keep it safe.” Encryption is the first line of defense to protecting data, the best way to make this encryption effective is to “embrace hacker research.”  Ms. Sell topped off her talk by showing a map (see page 17 here) created by Human Rights Foundation and Wickr that highlights which countries demand backdoors or restrict access to encryption.  Noted cyber lawyer Fernando M. Pinguelo, Esq. (CIPP/US), who attended the session, remarked: “Ms. Sell’s remarks hit the mark and captivated the audience.  I found her philanthropic efforts focused on kids to be fascinating.  Through teaching cryptography, white-hat hacking, and cyber security she hoped to empower kids around the world to protect their communities.”


Attendees to the conference also got to hear all the IAPP’s latest news. IAPP president J. Trevor Hughes proudly stated that the IAPP now has 25,000 members in more than 80 countries. He also announced the creation of the Fellow of Information Privacy certification, which is intended to recognize leaders in the privacy field.  Mr. Hughes further announced that the CIPP credential has received the ISO 17024:2012 certification.  Mr. Hughes told eWhite House Watch that the ISO’s approval is “important because it is a third party who has acknowledged and certified that the CIPP is of the highest quality and that the IAPP is doing what it says it does.”


In short, the conference was a success for the IAPP.  Mr. Hughes said that the Association “was very pleased with the conference” and that he was proud that “every year the event gets bigger.”


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