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The Privacy Advisor | Celebrating 20 years: Hughes navigates IAPP, changing privacy field ‘every step of the way’ Related reading: 50K members: A landmark for the IAPP and global privacy


Next to the headlines “RBC Financial Group Develops Cohesive Internet Privacy Management Policies” and “Lawyers Expand Efforts to Escape GLBA Coverage,” a December 2002 edition of what was then called Privacy Officers Advisor announced the 300-member International Association of Privacy Officers appointed a new executive director. 

Twenty years later, that executive director, J. Trevor Hughes, CIPP, is still at the helm — though now as president and CEO — that publication is now known as The Privacy Advisor with a circulation of more than 48,000 readers, and what was once the IAPO is now the International Association of Privacy Professionals and boasts more than 75,000 members.

Treliant Risk Advisors Senior Advisor Agnes Bundy Scanlan, CIPP/US, who served as the first chairman of the organization’s board of directors and hired Hughes 20 years ago, remembered his energy and vision for the organization, neither of which have since subsided. 

“It’s something that has stayed with me, and I’ve seen it being an important part of the IAPP ever since. Trevor had a vision. He had a vision that I don’t think the rest of us were ready for,” Scanlan said. “Trevor envisioned where we are today and where the organization would grow, in 2002.”

J. Trevor Hughes is honored for his 20 years at the helm of the IAPP

Before joining the IAPP, Hughes served as the executive director of the Network Advertising Initiative and through that work caught the board’s attention, said then-member Hogan Lovells Partner Harriet Pearson, CIPP/US. Hughes stood out, she said, as a privacy professional who was in tune with the field and offered experience operating an association — and one in a parallel space, at that. 

“He started knocking it out of the park. He started creating experiences, serving members in a way that was optimal,” Pearson said of Hughes’ early years with the organization. “He was one of the early privacy professionals. He would have been successful at anything he chose to do, but this was a particular magic sauce.” 

Early on, Scanlan said Hughes envisioned an organization that would grow to serve privacy professionals internationally. He foresaw thriving membership and supporting talented personnel, and over the years realized potential for bringing services like programming in-house and new and different ways to serve the organization’s growing membership, including regional KnowledgeNet meetings, certification opportunities, and networking and informational events around the world. 

Pearson spoke fondly of Hughes’ ability “to turn ideas into reality,” noting a conversation they had about an IAPP certification for the information technology community when she was IBM’s chief privacy officer that later came to fruition.

“I think of it all the time. I think of this being the best hire I ever had, and it’s been a 20-year lasting one,” Scanlan said. “Then (Trevor) brought in really good people who shared his vision, who had a vision and insights of their own to add to the strategy of what was becoming this truly tremendous organization.” 

The IAPP — now headquartered in Portsmouth, NH, with an office in Brussels, Belgium — got its start in York, Maine, a location then-board members said they were surprised by. But Pearson said Hughes “made it a strategic decision,” selling the Maine seacoast community as a location close to but outside of major cities that would recruit competitive talent, the “crème de la crème who are seeking to have wonderful professional experiences but also a wonderful life.”  

“He exceeded at seeing we all want a good life, selling that proposition, making it true for himself and his family and then for all of the IAPP staff,” Pearson said. “That’s one discussion I remember having with him. ‘York, Maine. Give me a map, let’s see where the heck that is.’ But we enjoyed the experiences that it created, not only for the board but also the staff and any visitors in coming to this part of the country.” 

Scanlan said constant change and advancements in technology, the challenges and issues that arise around privacy and security, and the role they play in every single company have not only made the privacy field everlasting, but she believes they drive Hughes in his professional work. 

WilmerHale Cybersecurity and Privacy Practice Co-Chair Kirk Nahra, CIPP/US, who served as editor of the Privacy Officers Advisor in 2002, added Hughes has successfully navigated those changes, challenges and issues “every step of the way.” 

“He’s had an approach to every single development that has happened within the field in general, and it’s all been good,” Nahra said. “He’s taken this organization from the very beginning to a mature, sophisticated, really important global organization, and that’s really hard.” 

Nahra said he’s been involved with a number of organizations throughout his career — the IAPP being the longest and most substantial relationship, and the one he promotes most regularly to colleagues, peers and friends. 

“There aren’t that many organizations in very many professional fields where you really have to be involved in it to be in the field,” Nahra said. “Trevor has turned it into an essential component of being in this field. That’s an impressive accomplishment.” 


Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

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  • comment Jonathan Wilkinson • Jun 23, 2022
    Congratulations, Trevor!  As I imagine is true with so many of the IAPP's 75,000 members, I simply wouldn't be where I am in my career without the IAPP.   The IAPP is the rare professional organization that can truy say it supports its members.   Thank you for all that you've done!!
  • comment Michelle Dennedy • Jun 23, 2022
    Bravo bravo bravo for Trevor!  I can't believe it has been 20 years already.  What an incredible journey it has been and what an incredible hub IAPP is for privacy professionals, privacy newbies and even privacy skeptics to come together, network, learn and be a part of a community.  Thank you for the first 20!!!!!!!