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Facebook’s latest privacy lapse came a few months after it received a record-setting $5 billion fine from the Federal Trade Commission over last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal. The government is obviously serious about privacy and it’s in your best interest to get in front of a potential problem. The counsel in charge of privacy in the modern corporate environment is now closer to a seat at the executive table. Is yours?

Before we get to the analyzing the career tracks of these individuals in the next graph, make note that the business case for investing in data privacy is sound. Just look back at the European Union’s enactment of GDPR, a.k.a. the General Data Protection Regulation. Now, look forward. In January, California’s Consumer Privacy Act will take effect, further limiting how businesses store and use consumer data. The new regulations do not just affect tech companies, they include any businesses that collect data about their customers. Privacy experts expect similar laws from other jurisdictions to crop up and they predict that navigating the patchwork of privacy laws will become more complex. Corporate executives and legal teams have taken note and are looking for attorneys who know how to comply with the patchwork fabric of privacy legislation.

The newfound importance of these positions can be seen in the career track of counsels in charge of privacy in the Fortune 100. In some instances, companies decided to bring in former government officials to get ahead of the new laws. Microsoft Corp. hired Julie S. Brill in 2017. Brill arrived at Microsoft with experience as an Assistant Attorney General in the Consumer Protection Division at the Office of the Attorney General in Vermont, and later as Senior Deputy Attorney General in the Consumer Protection Division at Office of the Attorney General in North Carolina. Most importantly, she served with the Federal Trade Commission as a commissioner from 2010 to 2016. The experience Brill gained from these positions enabled her to land a position as Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Privacy and Regulatory Affairs. Walt Disney Co. also chose to bring in a former government official, hiring Mary Ellen Callahan in 2017. Callahan has experience working in privacy law since 2009, when she was Chief Privacy Officer/Chief Freedom of Information Act Officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Callahan now serves as Assistant General Counsel for Privacy at Disney.

Don’t forget your own people. Other companies decided to promote from within to tackle the new privacy regulations. Examples include Michelle Huntley at UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Linda Zofchak Spencer at Coca-Cola Co. Huntley rose from Compliance Officer to Deputy General Counsel before being promoted to Chief Privacy Officer in July 2017. Spencer has been climbing since 2002, starting as Litigation, Labor and Employment Counsel and rising to her role as Chief Privacy Officer, Associate General Counsel for Privacy, Labor and Employment. Both companies chose counsel with plenty of overall legal experience before making them their head of privacy.

The AGC team at Enterprise Products Partners

Where do you go from here? Take a deeper look at Fortune 100 legal teams or even connect with a privacy counsel to share ideas and help your own organization through Leadership Connect’s legal community. Finding the right privacy counsel for your team, along with the strategic path to connect with them is available right now.

Brian Beth

Brian Beth

Legal Community Research Manager