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IAPP Conference Draws Record Crowds

In a vernal twist of fate, Washington D.C.'s famed cherry trees bloomed a week early, just in time to greet 1,400 privacy professionals from all over the world for the annual International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) Privacy Summit at the Renaissance Hotel.

"It was our highest-attended Privacy Summit yet," said IAPP Executive Director J. Trevor Hughes, "It attests to the growth of the privacy profession and the value of the conference."

Attendees such as Spain's data protection commissioner Artemi Rallo Lombarte, UK Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, and hundreds of privacy professionals from myriad sectors came to learn, share ideas, and network.

Some got an early start on Wednesday in sold out pre-conference sessions on social networking, governmental privacy, behavioral targeting, and insurance privacy.

"The room was filled with professionals from a surprisingly diverse set of industries, making for lively and productive discussion," said Mike Spinney, CIPP, principal of SixWeight and moderator of the morning session on social networking. "Online social networking's impact on the workplace is an issue confronting many businesses today. We were able to help a number of folks establish an informed starting point for successfully addressing the specific questions they face."

For neophytes, privacy "bootcamp" dominated the afternoon, while more seasoned pros pursued one of the Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) designations. The Summit once again established new benchmarks for turnout as 237 students prepared through IAPP training workshops, and 352 tested for privacy certification.

"With our largest training and testing classes to date, clearly the CIPP has become the standard designation for privacy and data protection that the marketplace recognizes and demands," said IAPP Assistant Director Peter Kosmala.

The full conference got underway on Thursday with special guests Nina Totenberg and Jeffrey Rosen, who delivered separate keynote addresses. Totenberg, who is legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio, opened her speech with a look back to the year 1965, when the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution protected a right to privacy, thereby overturning a Connecticut law prohibiting the use of contraceptives. "The Court said the law violated privacy surrounding marital relationship," Totenberg said, "and denounced the state for imposing their morals on the people of Connecticut."

Rosen, a George Washington University law professor, spoke of the pervasiveness of social networking, saying "we may be on the verge of a new privacy Chernobyl," and provided examples of "mini-privacy Chernobyl's" that have contributed to the changing face of privacy. Rosen concluded with a call to action to the audience of privacy professionals, saying "When it comes to the future of privacy in America, the president, Congress, and the courts can't save us. Only you can save us."

Other Thursday highlights included "Building your privacy dream house," a session led by representatives from eBay, Chevron, Intuit, and Microsoft, where attendees learned how to give their organizations a privacy "extreme makeover," and "Rethinking the Definition of PII" in today's online environment.

Thursday night was "Movie Night." After a sumptuous Privacy Summit celebration at the Ronald Reagan Building, popcorn-toting privacy pros headed to the Renaissance auditorium for a screening of The Lives of Others, a film about the monitoring of East Berlin's cultural scene by agents of the Stasi—the GDR's secret police—five years before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

At Friday's closing ceremonies, Hughes presented UK Information Privacy Commissioner Richard Thomas with the 2008 Privacy Leadership award for his ongoing commitment to raising the public profile of privacy and data protection issues. In accepting the award, Thomas asked the audience "What is your role as privacy professional?  Is it to protect the interests of the organization? To protect the interests of the people?"

"It has to be both," he concluded.

See the IAPP Privacy Summit photo gallery at www.privacysummit.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=30&Itemid=5

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