IBM's New Privacy Chief Calls Data Privacy 'Cornerstone of Trust'
On any given day, IBM Corporations new chief privacy officer Christina Peters could look through The New York Times and find an article to jumpstart a conversation about privacy. On Mondaywhen IBM announced her appointmentthe story Peters chose to blog about happened to be on pediatricians turning to social media and texting to reach teen patients.
Her reaction to the trend was mixed. I have a teenager and I know how difficult that age cohort can be to reach, she told CorpCounsel.com in an interview. But she also wondered: How do I feel about that? How do I feel about that line of communication opening up, and whats the right answer?
Peters doesnt think shes alone in asking these questions about the ever-increasing integration of technology and peoples daily lives. And she says this particular example underscores the approach to privacy she thinks we need to take.
Lets look at new tools, lets understand how they might work, lets focus on using technology to address problems that weve been struggling with, she says, but lets also be mindful, and lets also not think that were always going to be able to find a one-size-fits-all approach.
A member of IBMs legal department since 1996, Peters joined the companys privacy team in 2010 under CPO Harriet Pearson. Now, as she takes over for Pearsonwho recently departed for Hogan Lovellsbig data and analytics are top of mind.
Posting on the company blog, she wrote:
New analytics technologies make it possible for companies to better understand customers and their needs, and to personalize offers and services. Yet, at the same time, risks to privacy are real. Its important for sensitive personal information to be protected and for people to be aware of how information they share will be used, so they can make decisions about whats okay with them and what isnt.
While many companies have been creating CPO positions recently, IBM was among the first major corporations to do so in 2000, according to Peters. And the companys commitment to privacy reaches back further, when it began enacting privacy policies around employee data.
For us, privacy is a cornerstone of trust, Peters says. Its about not only compliance with the law, but also the kind of trust that you need in order to build a relationship with an individual, whether its your employee or whether its your customer.
IBMs privacy office, which is housed within the legal department, provides subject-matter expertise across the company, Peters explains. They also assist with the companys global privacy assessments around personal information that IBM owns.
We are in a position to do what we call privacy enablementhelping people use data in the ways that we need to use it in order to run the organization and get insight from that data, but with the confidence that we are complying with IBM policy, Peters says.
Between continuing developments in both technology and privacy law, A principal issue for us is helping our organization innovate with confidence, she says. Given the amount of uncertainty in this space, we feel the best approach for us is move forward with a set of principles that inform us, and that may go well beyond what the law requires.