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The Privacy Advisor | BBB National Programs first APEC-approved US nonprofit Accountability Agent Related reading: APEC announces new US Accountability Agent for CBPR certifications



The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation approved the first U.S.-based nonprofit Accountability Agent in the APEC privacy certification systems.

Following its approval by a joint oversight board and the 21 APEC economies, BBB National Programs announced it becomes one of seven worldwide recognized Accountability Agents in the APEC Cross Border Privacy Rules and Privacy Recognition for Processors systems. The nonprofit will work one-on-one with companies of all sizes doing business in the 21 economies to demonstrate compliance with the CBPR and PRP program requirements.

BBB National Programs is also launching a new Global Privacy Division that will manage the APEC certification programs, as well as its existing EU-U.S. Privacy Shield program, which serves more than 1,000 U.S. companies that process European personal data. While the CBPR and PRP programs will support U.S.-based businesses, BBB National Programs has also launched the Vendor Privacy Program to support those headquartered outside the U.S.

“This is something we as an organization have been talking about for some time. Many of our national partners are global companies and how do we continue to help our global companies do business in different economies,” BBB National Programs Privacy Initiatives Senior Vice President Dona Fraser said. “I think BBB National Programs is uniquely suited because for all the programs that we do, it’s about transparency and trust and how better to help companies comply with these different frameworks. I think we are perfectly suited to do that.”

Following the Court of Justice of the European Union’s decision on "Schrems II" in July, which invalidated the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework, the timing to move forward felt “fortuitous,” Fraser said. In August, Josh Harris — who was instrumental in developing and implementing the CBPR system during his time with the U.S. International Trade Administration’s Office of Technology and Electronic Commerce — joined BBB National Programs as Global Privacy Initiatives director in part to help reach the goal, Fraser said.

Harris said BBB National Programs is a mission-driven organization focused on consumer trust in the marketplace and its approval as an Accountability Agent presents an opportunity to reach a greater audience of consumers, companies, and vendors in alignment with that mission.

APEC-certified participants — CBPR for data controllers and PRP for data processors or vendors — will receive a certification seal to demonstrate ongoing compliance, with the ability to access independent dispute resolution for privacy complaints services and more.

As a nonprofit in the space, Fraser said BBB National Programs has a “certain level of being nimble in what we do, how we do it, how we scale it.”

“We are able to juxtapose our bottom line with the priorities of the companies that we are working with, the partners that we are working with, in a way that maybe for-profit companies can’t. We can create strategic partnerships with companies to help us build technologies in a way that probably for-profits can’t,” she said.

Through its Privacy Shield program — which continues to help U.S. businesses demonstrate alignment with the standards while the U.S. Department of Commerce works with European counterparts on the future of trans-Atlantic data transfers — and now the APEC programs, BBB National Programs looks to work with small- to medium-sized businesses and enterprises. Harris said the programs were designed with scalability in mind and have the ability to apply “to the largest multinationals in the world all the way down to people developing apps in their garage.”

“Where there’s alignment is our programs are not just for the large companies,” Fraser said. “I think that’s one of the key alignments across the board is that we really do want to help these smaller companies. Some of them need more help than others. But they want to thrive, they want to do business, they want to grow, and being compliant is a path toward growth for these companies.”

With the addition of the APEC programs, Fraser said BBB National Programs anticipates growing its certification programs under the Global Privacy Division, while Harris added the organization has “struck the appropriate balance between scalability and rigor.”  

“A lot of vendors, their operations, the companies that they work with, they may be working with multiple companies that are all requiring them to be compliant, show accountability. We expect vendors, in particular, could and should flock to this program,” Fraser said. “This is where you come to show your accountability. We’re making it as easy as possible.”

Photo by Nastuh Abootalebi on Unsplash

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