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The Privacy Advisor | Caitlin Fennessy to lead as IAPP VP, chief knowledge officer Related reading: Martin Abrams: A look back at a career in information privacy and consumer policy



The IAPP has appointed former IAPP Research Director Caitlin Fennessy, CIPP/US, as vice president and chief knowledge officer, following the departure of Omer Tene, who leaves the position to join Goodwin's Data, Privacy & Cybersecurity practice as partner. Tene will continue sharing his knowledge with the privacy community as an IAPP Senior Westin Fellow.

Caitlin Fennessy

Fennessy, who is the former Privacy Shield director at the U.S. International Trade Administration, will bring key skills to the IAPP’s senior leadership team, guiding the strategic development of the organization’s research, publications, communications and programming as chief knowledge officer. She will lead the IAPP’s efforts to provide privacy professionals the practical, reliable and timely information they need to understand the operational impacts of global data protection developments.

Joining the IAPP in 2019 as research director, Fennessy said she has worked closely over that time with the organization’s teams to create synergies, inform research and connect with members. 

“I’ve been learning nonstop since I started at the IAPP and clearly in this new role that will only be multiplied,” she said. “What I love about this field is not only do I think it is incredibly impactful and integral to everything, but it has never stopped changing. So, I think it’s only going to become more important, and there will always be something new to learn about this space.”

Fennessy spent 10 years working on international privacy and cross-border data flow policy issues before joining the IAPP. She also served as an adjunct professor of international privacy law at the University of Maine School of Law and University of New Hampshire School of Law and previously worked in the National Security Division of the Office of Management and Budget and with the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Services at the International Trade Administration Christopher Hoff, CIPP/E, CIPP/US, CIPM, who worked with Fennessy at the Department of Commerce on data flows and privacy issues, said she is “absolutely brilliant as a privacy leader.”

“She knows and values privacy and civil liberties, data flows, foreign and domestic laws, political realities, government policymaking and regulatory affairs,” Hoff said. “She is an extremely valued member of the privacy world, and all who have the pleasure of knowing her respect her and enjoy being around her.”

IAPP President and CEO J. Trevor Hughes, CIPP, said the organization has certainly benefited from Fennessy’s leadership and knowledge.

“Caitlin came to the IAPP with tremendous depth in the global discussion over data flows and international frameworks. We are tremendously fortunate that we have such depth in subject matter expertise here at the IAPP and we are looking forward to her contributions as our chief knowledge officer,” he said.

Tene joined the IAPP eight years ago “as one of the preeminent thought leaders in our field,” Hughes said. Over that time, Tene built the IAPP Westin Research Center, mentored its Westin Fellows and “elevated” the organization’s role “in the global privacy debate,” Hughes said.

Omer Tene

“Perhaps most importantly, he has helped IAPP members around the world make sense of the bewildering complexity that confronts privacy pros every day,” Hughes said. “In so many ways, he has improved the understanding and practice of privacy globally.”

Tene said he’s been on the privacy and data protection sidelines for more than a decade, first as a law professor and academic and then during his time at the IAPP.

“With the perfect storm brewing in the privacy and tech policy space, including (EU General Data Protection Regulation) enforcement in Europe, a new activist U.S. Federal Trade Commission, a confluence of state laws, and data protection reforms from China to Brazil — not to mention initiatives around AI regulation and ePrivacy, I felt it’s time to step back into the fray,” he said.

Advising policymakers and business executives on complex law and policy issues is something he’s always enjoyed, Tene said, and he looks forward to the opportunity to work on these issues at Goodwin.

On his time with the IAPP, Tene said he is most proud of his team, under which the Westin Fellow program has “prospered” with alumni moving on to “strategic and leadership roles in civil society, industry and law firms.” He also noted the “whirlwind of growth” of the IAPP over that time, to now 70,000 members, and the passion for privacy the organization fosters all over the globe.

That team has undoubtedly included Fennessy, a successor Tene said he could not be more proud of and confident in.

“Caitlin is an incredibly talented researcher, manager and diplomat, who always greets you with a kind word and a smile,” he said. “I know she’ll navigate her new role with the grace and brilliance that she’s aced in all her previous assignments.”

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