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Do you know enough about privacy to be dangerous?

Most of you reading this blog don’t know me. And given the title of this post you’re probably thinking I’m crazy but hear me out.

While working at Facebook as the Deputy Data Protection Officer in Ireland last year, I had the opportunity to build an organization from the ground up. One of the primary focuses of that role was to hire a large team. As a result, I met privacy professionals from around the world. I was interviewing applicants two and three times a week over a period of a year and I realized as I delved into each privacy professional’s understanding of privacy and data protection basics that most understood the concepts, but few had an understanding of how to operationalize them. Fewer still had real-world experience. I decided there had to be a better way to prepare and fill the industry with competent professionals. I founded Inspire! with that goal in mind.

I’m advocating for privacy professionals to focus on learning the basic building blocks of privacy and data protection, then using that deeper knowledge to spot issues that can be discussed with a subject-matter expert.

I guess that’s easy for me to say at this point in my career, but it's a hard-earned opinion and one that I fundamentally believe in. After years of trying to keep up with fast-paced industries and clients, I learned that I first had to slow down and deeply understand the basics. I also learned that once I understood the basics, I knew just enough to spot issues and then ask the right questions of a subject-matter expert. The questions I began to ask were questions I had previously missed because I didn’t'know enough to know what I didn’t know. But then I ran into a different problem; as I focused on the basics and my knowledge grew, I thought I was an expert. I knew just enough to be dangerous.

Through trial and error, I learned that if I continued to focus on gaining knowledge and then asked a subject-matter expert for help I could apply my new-found knowledge in a sandbox-type environment. This allowed me to provide high-quality advice to clients for use in a production environment. This process helped me to gain both knowledge and experience – a virtuous cycle – which in turn benefitted my clients and kept us all out of trouble.

This idea may sound simple, but most privacy professionals don’t have access to subject-matter experts and finding an expert with the time to help in the current, churning landscape is almost impossible. Instead, most privacy professionals simply study and try to find opportunities to collaborate and gain experience as best they can. But they may soon run into the same issue that I did – they don’t yet know enough to know what they don’t know.

If there were a better way to accelerate learning and help you to gain experience, would you take it?

Would you also give back to the privacy community by helping to stabilize the current, churning landscape through networking and sharing your knowledge and experience?

If you had the opportunity to help create a common vocabulary and body of privacy knowledge that you could benefit from, could you find the time?

I believe most of you would jump at these opportunities. That is why I created Inspire!

I’m looking for privacy professionals who know enough to be dangerous.

If your answer to the three previous questions is yes, follow this link and apply to join the new Inspire! Privacy and Security Forum. Read the Terms of Use and Privacy Notice carefully to see if you qualify. We’d LOVE to have you join us! You must have at least one qualifying certification to join.

The Forum will focus on providing a structured platform for privacy, data protection and information security professionals at all levels of experience. You have the opportunity to join a global network and collaborate, share knowledge and find opportunities to gain experience. Inspire! will moderate the conversations, document the outcomes and develop searchable self-help tools organized by topic.

Bring your questions and the issues you encounter along your professional journey. We’ll provide suggestions and introduce you to resources and networks of like-minded professionals, including subject-matter experts that might be able to help.

Tell me, do you know enough about privacy, data protection or information security to be dangerous?