There are many career possibilities for those with technology and data analysis skills, one of which is protecting the privacy of people’s information.
As technology spreads into every phase of our lives, privacy issues have multiplied. Recent data breaches at major retailers and the credit score company Equifax have underscored the need for better security in the face of cyberthreats.
Creation of the Internet of Things (IoT) also has led to privacy challenges. IoT involves sensors placed on objects in the real world that communicate information. This has expanded into healthcare, where patients can have wearable devices that transmit information to medical professionals.
In short, it’s an online world, and keeping information private is a priority for businesses. For privacy professionals a college degree that focuses on cybersecurity and information assurance, computer information systems or business analytics, it may be a career path worth exploring.
What Privacy Professionals Do
Digital data is being transmitted more frequently and at faster speeds. Privacy professionals focus on keeping that information safe.
It’s important to understand that privacy differs from cybersecurity, although the two may overlap. IT security workers focus primarily on blocking cyber attacks or preventing malware from sneaking into an organization’s computer systems. Privacy professionals can also operate in those areas, but focus is more on the use and governance of personal data, developing and implementing policies to ensure information is collected and shared appropriately.
Opportunities in the Privacy Profession
The International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) released a 2016 study with TRUSTe that found 50% of companies surveyed in the past two years have increased the number of privacy professionals they have on their information security teams:
- 42% of those who reported increases were putting more money into technology
- 48% reported their companies increased the number of people addressing privacy issues
Spending on privacy technology outpaced overall spending on personnel, external counsel and privacy audits. The study found that 39% of respondents reported some type of attack or information privacy issue within the last two years.
How to Enter the Privacy Field
For those interested in the privacy field, a good place to start is in a regulated industry such as healthcare. This helps them understand how regulations and business operations are balanced, Daniel J. Solove, a professor at George Washington University Law School, wrote in a LinkedIn article.
Beyond that, opportunities abound. According to the IAPP’s report, business functions with privacy professionals include legal, regulation compliance, human resources, records management, finance and accounting, procurement and marketing. Becoming a privacy professional starts with learning everything you can on the issues. That means time devoted to reading all the resources available. Topics include government regulations and laws surrounding data security.
In a clear indication of how new the profession is, only 11% of respondents listed it as their first career field; 35% of respondents started in law, while some had information security (12%), information technology (11%), compliance (8%) and other backgrounds (24%). The median salary for those with five to nine years in the field was $115,000. Those with 10 or more years of experience had a median salary of $128,000.