When the Future of Privacy Forum decided to open up its first regional office, there was debate as to where would be the best location. They could have chosen New York, or perhaps Silicon Valley, areas that may initially pop into your mind when thinking about technology.
FPF CEO Jules Polonetsky, CIPP/US, and leadership at the organization, however, decided to set up shop in a country that has quickly become a premier destination for privacy-related activity. Co-founded with IAPP Vice President and Chief Knowledge Officer Omer Tene, the Israel Tech Policy Institute aims to be a place where privacy professionals, lawmakers and academics can work together to tackle pressing privacy issues.
In an interview with Privacy Tech, Polonetsky cited companies such as Prifender and BigID and contributions made by Israeli academics as some of the reasons why FPF chose Israel to house the new office.
“Israel is in many ways a bridge between the U.S. and Europe,” he explained. “Israel has a privacy law and is adequate under the European Union’s data transfer mechanisms. Israel is also a place where a wide number of companies are testing out new business models, working on AI and ad tech, and is in some ways a hotbed of how can we can have a regulatory model that has comprehensive privacy legislation.”
The institute hopes to gather stakeholders together to produce whitepapers, best practices and consumer education on data privacy topics, while also hosting a variety of events and conferences. Polonetsky said best practice and education materials could help companies comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation and other global privacy laws.
“We find when you get really smart technologists together and you ask them to focus on some of the policy problems with some lawyers and privacy people in the room, you really can come up with some thoughtful advances,” said Polonetsky.
When asked about the topics the institute will initially cover, Polonetsky pointed to data mobility, as it will be hosting a roundtable with 40 leading companies in order to discuss data in the car and ensure proper privacy protections are in place for vehicles consistently collecting information. The institute aims to host approximately a dozen events a year. In addition to the data mobility roundtable, the organization will soon hold events on the GDPR and creating policy for the digital environment.
The FPF has co-hosted events with the Israel Privacy Protection Authority previously, and now that the think tank has its Israeli location, Polonetsky hopes the institute can learn from the IPPA as it goes through the process of having its adequacy status reevaluated under the GDPR.
Another goal of the institute focuses on learning more about Israel and getting involved within the community. Polonetsky mentioned the institute will learn from and assist in the Israeli big data health care project as the country works to make citizens’ health information available to researchers for personalized medicine and to combat disease.
As Israel is a smaller market, Polonetsky said many of the companies in the country survive by offering solutions to clients all over the world. The FPF CEO wants to help those entities within Israel to learn more about those worldwide markets they are trying to reach.
“Our argument to them is, if your company is all about data — machine learning, privacy technology, de-identification, the ethics of self-driving cars — you need to be sophisticated at home about what you are inventing so you can understand and navigate the complicated global environment,” he explained, adding the institute also seeks to work closely with research-and-development offices belonging to major tech companies within the country.
Of course, any privacy initiative cannot ignore the GDPR. Polonetsky said Israeli companies have been working hard to comply with the new regulation and that the institute can help these local organizations by allowing them to hear from European regulators about industry standards and to receive guidance.
Polonetsky and the FPF are betting on Israel to continue to its surge upwards, hoping that a country known for being a cybersecurity leader will also end up emerging as a privacy-technology leader as well.
“For us, it really made sense since we are the Future of Privacy Forum, and we constantly look at the new technologies and what impact they can have on people and society and how can we put the right rules in place to help privacy leaders and policymakers figure out the right way to engage."
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