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Q&A With Richard Purcell

Each CPO will be asked the same questions to see what they have in common and how they see things differently. Here are Richard Purcell's responses.

Each CPO will be asked the same following questions. It makes it easier to see what the CPOs have in common and how they see things differently. Here are Richard Purcell's responses:

Aftab: In your opinion, what are the three biggest challenges faced by a CPO?

Purcell: Keep the trains running smoothly, identify disruptive technologies and strategies, and maintain privacy as a corporate priority. CPOs face many big challenges. They have to keep their basic privacy program running consistently, with a way to monitor. It's a bit like having an engine running at a consistent RPM with a tachometer to read so you know it's really happening. They have to look out for the unknown, new issues that emerge from new technologies or business strategies. Keeping your eye on the tachometer and watching the road ahead can be a real challenge. And they have to continuously manage upwards, assuring their budgets and resources are maintained (or increased) and that privacy is included within the corporate initiatives.

Aftab: If you had just one piece of advice for other CPOs what would that be?

Purcell: I would advise all CPOs to stop reinventing the wheel. Almost everything privacy-related has been done before in another context. Although privacy is a new subject, the tools, processes, and insights from decades of business management are readily applicable to privacy solutions. Each CPO that invents a special new process for their privacy program has both wasted their time and squandered an opportunity to look ahead for the next big thing.

Aftab: What was the most valuable resource or piece of advice you found?

Purcell: "You are who you say you are until someone says you are not." A friend told me that back in 1997 when I started planning a privacy program at Microsoft. So I decided I was the first CPO there, which I made come true through sheer persistence.

Aftab: Of others in the privacy community, whom do you admire the most and why?

Purcell: I am proud to say there are so many talented people in the privacy field. If I had to narrow the field, I would say Ari Schwartz of CDT in public policy, Lori Cranor in technology, and Peter Cullen in business. Ari and Lori have been at the heart of developing P3P (Platform for Privacy Preferences), a key technical specification for privacy. And Peter, my successor at Microsoft, developed the first privacy ROI when he was the CPO at Royal Bank in Toronto. I really admire them and lots of others who continue to passionately drive privacy protections. The commissioners and staff of the Federal Trade Commission deserve all our gratitude for their work in privacy, too.

The Privacy Lawyer will soon feature a CPO Watch column about and with Peter Cullen, chief privacy strategist at Microsoft.

Return to main story: The Privacy Lawyer: CPO Watch: Richard Purcell

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