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Ben Hayes, CIPP/US, CIPP/C, CIPP/E, CIPP/G, CIPM, CIPT, is not unfamiliar with taking on a challenge. The announcement of his newest role with marketing technology company Zeta Global marks the third time he has been a company’s first hire for a newly created position — this time as Zeta Global’s first chief privacy officer.

When deciding his next challenge, Hayes said it was important to ask probing questions to ensure his next move was in fact the right move. He landed with the marketing technology company, which he explained, helps marketers reach customers based on user data, without actually selling user data despite having a diversity of data sources that it aggregates to create a brief picture of a broad number of consumers. Described as providing person-based marketing powered by artificial intelligence, Hayes said the company takes a "very privacy protective approach" that includes a first-party relationship with a majority of the data subjects involved. 

“For a company that commands vast amounts of data, I thought the way they use it so sparingly was a very mature way of approaching data governance,” Hayes said. Zeta's blueprint for data governance comes from a practical mindset that considers the user experience. 

"There is a lot of science that goes into not annoying the public, and I think it’s really genius," he said. "I think Zeta is poised to become a hugely successful company that could redefine the business model for marketing.” 

As Hayes looks back at his career to date, he said being a company’s first hire is always a challenge. “You define the role with what you do. Other people may have expectations, and that may or may not reflect your thoughts on the role. There is a lot of getting to know you that’s involved in any new role.”

Having got his start studying under Alston & Bird's Peter Swire, CIPP/US, when Swire was a professor at Ohio State, Hayes graduated with an understanding that a career in privacy could be massive. He said, “I knew that if the Europeans enforced their law, it would be incredibly disruptive to international trade and American businesses. While I knew that at a macro level, I was a brand new lawyer, and I had no idea how to monetize that. I had some good fortune to meet some people who had paying work and were willing to let me do it.” Since those early days, Hayes' career has included serving as Nielsen's chief privacy officer and Accenture's director of legal services and data privacy compliance for North America. 

“There were times early in my career where I felt that maybe there wasn’t future work in this field — then something new would come along, like HIPAA or breach notification. One thing after another has kept privacy moving and growing. There was once a time where I could credibly say I had read every privacy law in the world, but now that sort of statement would be laughable," he said. 

Ben Hayes

Translating his career experience into his new role at Zeta, Hayes said, “I think the theme for what privacy professionals have been doing for the last 20 years is getting companies to think about data the way they think about money. Companies know where the money comes from, who has it, where it goes and why. Companies that don’t grasp that aren’t going to do well. Getting companies to have that same discipline, control and visibility for their data is essentially what privacy professionals do.” He added, “I think what consumers are concerned about is a sense of a loss of control and hopelessness about their data. I think the burden on industry is to respond to that and help educate consumers about what is going on with their data.”

Looking ahead, Hayes said Zeta Global is well positioned for growth but added, “Helping it do that as an effective partner with the business is always the primary challenge. Privacy is not an event, it’s a process. We’re are in a dynamic and rapidly changing technology and market environment where what’s being asked of the marketing sector is constantly changing and evolving. There is a lot of innovation and things we could do — my job, in part, is to ask if we should and make sure that the answer is yes.”


photo credit: California State Route 62 via photopin (license)


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